Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Adding evidence to decision making regarding cover and catch crops

PhD Start date: 2 October 2017

Application Deadline: 31 March 2017

PhD Supervisor(s): Ian Shield (Rothamsted Research), Carly Stevens (Lancaster University), Harry Wilder (Barfoots of Botley)

Funding: Tuition fees in full at the Home/EU rate. An annual stipend of at least £14,553 for 4 years

Project Description:

This project is part of a BBSRC-funded Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP) between the Waitrose Partnership, their international food production and supply companies, Lancaster University, the University of Reading, University of Warwick and Rothamsted Research. Between 2017 and 2023, the CTP will deliver 20 four-year studentships on the themes of sustainable crop production, sustainable soil and water and biodiversity and ecosystem services in agriculture.

Why is this project interesting?

The use of cover and catch crops is becoming more common place in UK agriculture. There are many potential benefits of such practices including prevention of soil erosion and leaching of nitrate, improvement of infiltration and adding carbon to the soil. Cover crops have the potential to promote a range of ecosystem services, however, at present there has been very little investigation of which crops do this best. Cover and catch crops must display specific traits to be of benefit to the grower in different rotational positions and thereby justify seed and planting costs; compatibility with cash crops, strong root penetration, growth in low temperature and light conditions and zero seed return. This project will work towards providing an evidence base for growers to make decisions on which cover crops to use.

What’s in it for you?

The successful applicant will join an exciting industry led PhD programme gaining experience of research within industry, a research institution and a university. You will be based at Rothamsted Reseach and work closely with Lancaster University and Barfoots of Botley spending two cash crop growing seasons of 6 months each in West Sussex. Barfoots is one of the UK’s most innovative growers of speciality vegetables; farming over 6000 acres on the South Coast and investing significantly in cover crops and other management strategies to improve soil structure and fertility.

Who should apply?

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Agriculture, Environmental Science, Plant Sciences, Soil Science or Ecology.


Applications are encouraged from UK and EU students.

To be eligible for a full funding award (Tuition fees and Stipend) a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long then can stay and
  • Been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences) and
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for th epurpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals).

To be eligible for a tuition fees only award:

Students from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a fees-only award.

  • a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU, in the same way as UK students must be ordinarily resident in the UK.

An equal opportunities employer