PhD opportunity. Tree species choice in agroforestry systems: do mycorrhizal associations affect soil microbiomes and crop yields?

This project, at the Department of Biology, University of York, is part of the NERC ACCE Doctoral Training Partnership.

About the Project

Agroforestry systems have the potential to play an important part in maintaining ecosystem services while maintaining crop yields and farm incomes. There is increasing interest in the design and implementation of mixed tree and grain cropping systems. Grain crops of the family Poaceae form arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM). The tree species commonly used in agroforestry may be either AM or ectomycorrhizal (ECM). The overarching question addressed by this project is whether the presence of an ECM tree crop exerts different, and potentially negative influences on the grain crop.

This effect may be direct, because ECM tree species will not share a fungal mycelium with the crop, or indirect because of effects the fungal networks have on the soil microbiome, and hence plant growth and yield.

This is an important question. Current biophysical models of crop yields in agroforestry are often poorpredictors of yields, and it is likely this is because the organisms that form the soil microbiome – which we know to be highly variable – are not accounted for. In this project yield and farm income models will be tested, and experiments carried out in agroforestry experiments to determine the effect of tree species choice on the soil microbiome, and on crop yields.

You will gain experience in cutting edge sequence analysis of soil microbiomes and modelling, and in using your data to evaluate and improve yield and farm income prediction models. You will also have opportunities to engage with stakeholders in the sector.

The ACCE DTP and the University of York are committed to recruiting future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and we have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Entry Requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological, ecological or evolutionary questions. 

Programme: PhD in ACCE (4 years)

Start Date: 1st October 2022 (the student will be registered with the Department of Biology)

For more information and to apply

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in the w/c 21 February 2022

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