PhD Student Position Effective Organic Matter Management to Improve Soil Fertility (4.7)


Soil fertility is a central parameter in the global ecosystem, linking water, food and energy flows. Soil erosion and declining soil fertility present a significant threat not only to food production, but also to fresh water availability and carbon storage. Soil organic matter plays an important role in the buildup of healthy soil in terms of soil structure and biological activity. Organic streams such as sewage sludge, animal manures and agricultural plant residues can be used to increase the organic matter content in soil. Treatment of organic matter is required to reach appropriate biochemical conditions for soil application. More insight is needed to define the most suitable form of organic matter addition, required treatment concept and the interactions between the organic matter and soil components with respect to micro-organisms, organic carbon and nutrients/minerals. 

Research challenge
The goal of this research project is to answer the following questions:

  • Should the added organic matter be stabilized or unstabilized? What are the influences of these forms on the soil organic matter content, the biochemical processes in soil and crop growth?
  • What is the optimal treatment concept for organic matter (e.g. composting, anaerobic digestion, Bokashi treatment)
  • How do the bacteria involved in the organic matter treatment influence the biochemical interactions in soil? What is the role of Effective Micro-organisms (EM) in improving soil biological activity? 

We are looking for a candidate with an MSc degree in the field of soil biochemistry, soil science, soil microbiology or similar discipline. Knowledge of environmental technology is beneficial. 

Our offer
Doing a PhD in the Netherlands takes 4 year.
You earn a salary to make a living.
In year 1 the salary is €30.674, in year 4 €39.214 before tax.
The amount of paid holiday days is 35/year. 

The research project is part of the Wetsus research theme Soil. For this project we are looking for collaboration with companies and institutes involved in the management of organic streams and soil health. 

Cooperation with Wageningen University, Environmental technology ( Annemiek ter Heijne).

For more information contact Taina Tervahauta ( 

Wetsus, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands

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