PhD Studentship: Developing a Novel Soil Health Assessment Framework for Sustainable Land Management

Harper Adams University

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Research Office
Location:  Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB
As per advert
Post Type:  Full Time
Contract Type:
Fixed Term

– 36 Months

– Up to 36 months
Closing Date: 
23.59 hours BST on Sunday 30 April 2023
Reference:  RD-PHD-01-SE-DVC-MH-R

PhD Studentship: Developing a Novel Soil Health Assessment Framework for Sustainable Land Management

Supervisors: Dr Samuel Eze (Director of Study), Dr Simon Jeffery (Second supervisor)

36 month funded studentship.

The expected start date for the studentship will be the beginning of October 2023. The student will be registered for a PhD at Harper Adams University and based at Harper Adams University, Edgmond, Shropshire, UK. The studentship will cover the current Home tuition fee rate plus a yearly stipend set at the UKRI figure – currently £17,668 per year (2022/23 academic year) with an expected small increase from September 2023. 

International applicants would need to be able to fund the difference between Home and Overseas fees which will be £10,890 for the 2023/24 academic year with the first year’s fee’s being paid in full before Visa documentation can be issued. 

About the Project

This PhD project offers a unique and exciting opportunity to do a widely needed research on soil health and develop a robust and reliable framework for assessing soils. One of the major global and regional challenges of the present day is how to produce sufficient food for the growing population while protecting and improving the quality of the environment for present and future generations. Addressing this challenge requires sustainable management of soils, which underpin food production, climate change and flood mitigation, and water and air quality regulation (Kopittke et al., 2019). Improving soil health is therefore at the forefront of many governments’ new land management strategies such as the Environmental Land Management Schemes in the United Kingdom. The current challenge is how to reliably monitor soil health – to assess whether implemented management practices are yielding expected outcomes or not. Existing assessment frameworks are either too narrow in scope or based on subjective judgements and untested conceptual relationships between soil properties and environmental outcomes.

The aim of the PhD research is to develop a novel and robust soil health assessment framework that can be reliably used at local, regional, and global scales. This will involve the use of a multiple research approach, combining meta-analysis and computer modelling with field and laboratory assessment of soil properties and functions. Specific objectives are to: 1) develop a methodology for the selection of reliable indicators of soil health, 2) empirically and quantitatively test the relationships between selected soil health indicators and target environmental outcomes, including farm relevant metrics such as crop yields and 3) develop a method that can be universally applied for interpreting and combining relevant soil health indicators into a soil health index.


Kopittke et al., 2019. Soil and the intensification of agriculture for global food security. Environ. Int. 132, p.105078.


This PhD research project is ideally suited for candidates trained in soil sciences but candidates with a general background in agriculture, environmental sciences or other related disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree with a first or upper second class or a high GPA. A relevant master’s degree may be an advantage. Evidence of good scientific communication skills in both written and spoken English is required. The candidate should be able to write critical reviews of scientific literature as well as scientific reports in English. Ideal candidate should have experience in soil laboratory analysis and be able to demonstrate evidence of relevant data analysis including statistical modelling. A good knowledge of R Statistics would be beneficial. Fieldwork experience is desirable. Self-motivation and ability to work to deadlines are essential.

The successful candidate will receive training in meta-analysis, statistical modelling and various aspects of soil physics and biogeochemistry. The PhD programme of research offers flexibility for the candidate to draw on their strengths and equips them to fill a major skill gap.

Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector. With around 2,800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams University is the UK’s largest single provider of higher education for these subjects.  Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange. Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. The University has been the highest performing modern university in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for the last four years, climbing to 17th place in the overall league table. In the 2020 guide Harper Adams was named Modern University of the Year and runner-up University of the Year. In the 2019 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards, based on student reviews, Harper Adams won the Student Support category for the fifth time – the only university to have taken the title since the awards began – and won the category for best job prospects for a fourth year running. In the 2020 QS World Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry published in March 2020, Harper Adams was ranked first in the UK for academic reputation and second in the world for its reputation with employers.

Applied research is at the heart of the university’s activity, with the work of a thriving academic community underpinning both teaching and work with the industries allied to Harper. The 2014 Government Research Excellence Framework rated all of the university’s research as “of international quality”, and more than half was deemed “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.

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