Variability in soil nutrient concentrations on farms and within agricultural landscapes is linked to inefficient use of nutrient sources, especially poor distribution of organic manures. This can result in agronomic and environmental deficits. Understanding the bio-physical and farm infrastructural drivers affecting nutrient use efficiency from organic manures will become more important as agricultural production intensifies to meet new production targets, while simultaneously meeting water quality and greenhouse gas objectives.
This project will characterise manure management practices on farms using existing soil and organic nutrient management data sets and aims to identify the bottlenecks and factors leading to poor manure distribution and nutrient use efficiency. The influence of organic nutrient sources on nutrient attenuation, mobilisation, and storage across a range of soil types will be investigated at multiple scales. The annual and seasonal capacity of organic manures to supply nutrients for crop growth will also be assessed using established field experiments within Irish study catchments. Finally the nutrient loss risk from organic manure applications will be investigated at hill-slope scale to build new understanding of the soil, hydrological, manure and application method factors contributing to nutrient losses.
The new knowledge and outputs generated from this study will provide farmers and advisors with practical advice for cost effective and efficient manure nutrient recovery and inform policy makers on manure management options for reducing nutrient losses to the environment.
Applicants should have a good primary degree (First or Second Class Honours – e.g. Agriculture, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering, etc.) and a MSc in an appropriate discipline is desirable. The successful candidate should be highly self-motivated and be prepared for laboratory work, data analysis, extended periods of field-work with modern analytical equipment and overseas travel for training and dissemination opportunities. A full EU driving licence is also required.
The PhD Fellowship is a joint research project between Teagasc, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford (working with the Agricultural Catchments Programme – www.teagasc.ie/agcatchments), and Ulster University. The student will be based at the Johnstown Castle Environment Research Centre in Wexford. Periods of post-graduate training work will also be undertaken at Ulster University where the student will be registered. The Fellowship will lead to the awards of MRes and PhD and will start in September 2017.