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PhD Studentship: Managing Ash Dieback Disease Using Soil Amendments Including Biochar

Coventry University - Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Coventry
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/EU)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 29th April 2019
Closes: 31st July 2019

The Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University has an exciting opportunity for a full time 3.5 year studentship opportunity for the right candidate to work on a project looking to increase understanding of ash dieback and explore possible ways of controlling it using agroecological principles.

Background 

Ash dieback is an emerging disease that causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected plants, often leading to tree death. It is caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (previously referred to as Chalara fraxinea). There is still much to learn and many aspects of the disease are poorly understood, including the mechanisms that trees may have for tolerance and resistance to the disease. Ash is an important part of our native flora which supports many invertebrates as well as having particular cultural significance, so mitigating the effects of this disease is of considerable importance.

Some researchers have suggested that a plant’s own defence mechanisms can be enhanced by prior treatment with a biological or chemical agent.  Soil amendments may also improve soil fertility and structure and this may support improved plant health. Biochar, produced by pyrolysis of a range of organic material is one agent that has been widely advocated to improve soil fertility in a range of studies. A diverse, functioning soil ecosystem is vital to soil health but there has been little research so far into the impact of soil health either on ash dieback disease.

Research programme

  • A full literature survey will be conducted to describe the current ‘state of the art’ to ensure that the research conducted is novel and robust.
  • Replicated field trials will be set up using ash saplings, including biochar treatments plus other soil amendments.
  • Sites with established ash trees of various ages, with or without dieback infection, will be sampled to examine the soil microbial ecology and relate tree health with soil fertility.
  • Pot trials and laboratory studies will be conducted using young trees.
  • The findings will be published in scientific journals and described at appropriate conferences.

Candidate specification

  • Proven ability to undertake independent study.
  • Experience in at least one relevant topic area (plant pathology, plant physiology or forestry).
  • Understanding of standard statistical techniques.
  • Strong communication skills to interact productively with project partners and stakeholders.

Funding details

Start and duration: September 2019, 3.5 years

Full fees and bursary at UKRI rates

This project is co-funded by Lob’s Charity and conducted in collaboration with Sacred Earth CBS, Sussex.

Closing date: Wednesday, 31st July 2019

Interviews:  Mid-August 2019

How to apply

For an informal discussion regarding this opportunity, please contact Dr. Francis Rayns at francis.rayns@coventry.ac.uk

For further information and to apply online please visit:

https://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/research-opportunities/research-students/research-studentships/managing-ash-dieback-disease-using-soil-amendments-including-biochar/

   
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