Rothamsted Research

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A loss function approach to optimal sensor configuration for soil sensing

Sponsored by Rothamsted Research and Cranfield University, this studentship will provide a bursary of £17,500 p.a. (tax free) plus fees* plus research consumables for 3.5 years

This PhD seeks to understand how we can best use sensors or configurations of sensors to map the variation in soil, and how we can best interpret the observed soil variation to provide advice to farmers on the planning and management of their crops.

Farming practices must deal with the inherent variability in the natural environment. Fields often follow natural delineations in the landscape, and ploughing, planting and harvest operations seek to reduce variability or to actively manage it. If fertiliser and pesticide use is sufficiently intense it effectively sweeps away the effects of natural variability. But this has negative consequences for the environment, apart from being inefficient.

Advances in sensor technology and agricultural equipment are allowing farmers to become far more precise in their use of chemicals. They also allow more variation in crop type or crop density in a field without compromising yields, resulting in a more environmental, ecological agriculture. The studentship will seek to develop spatial analytical and modelling tools for optimal deployment of such technologies.


Soil AgRIA Doctoral Training Centre The studentship is one of seven in Soil Technology Innovation being funded by Rothamsted Research and Cranfield University as part of a new Agricultural Research and Innovation Accelerator (AgRIA) based at Rothamsted. The Soil AgRIA has been established to accelerate applications of science and engineering advances to soil technology development, to tackle widely-acknowledged constraints to soil and land management, both nationally and globally.

The aim is to accelerate innovation by bringing together engineers, information technologists, natural scientists and soil scientists with business. Students will be co-supervised by Rothamsted and Cranfield scientists and will also be embedded in a multidisciplinary innovation accelerator, advised by a think tank of industrial stakeholders. The degree programme will include training in innovative thinking and entrepreneurial skills, as well as the more-standard Cranfield and Rothamsted doctoral programmes. Students will be registered at Cranfield and will have social and networking opportunities within the Cranfield and Rothamsted wider research communities.

At a glance

  • Application deadlineOngoing
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date02 Oct 2017
  • Duration of award3.5 years
  • EligibilityEU, UK
  • Reference numberSWEE0001


Dr Ron Corstanje (Cranfield)
Dr Alice Milne (Rothamsted)
Dr Toby Waine (Cranfield)

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK honours degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as a Natural Science, Environmental Science or Engineering. A full driving licence and fluency in English is also required.


Sponsored by Rothamsted Research and Cranfield University, this studentship will provide a bursary of £17,500 p.a. (tax free) plus fees* plus research consumables for 3.5 years 

*RCUK eligibility rules apply. To be eligible for a full award a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. To be eligible for a fees -only award, a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This Network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas, identify opportunities for collaboration and create smaller communities of practice.  It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information please contact: Ron Corstanje,

If you are eligible to apply for this research studentship, please complete the attached application form and send together with a CV to Guy Kirk,

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