Getting dirty with soil phosphorus


A growing world population demands that agricultural production is managed sustainability. A major threat is our over-reliance for fertilizer on rock phosphate that is a dwindling and geo-politically vulnerable resource. This exciting project targets a major gap in scientific knowledge and seeks transformative solutions to this pre-eminent agricultural problem.

We propose that crops rely on soil microorganisms for mineralization of phytate into the inorganic phosphate form that they can use. The microbiological drivers, the processes and mechanisms enabling this are poorly understood. The knowledge gained from this project will define microbial contributeon to the organic phosphate parameters of healthy soils and allow us to integrate agricultural land management with sustainable reduction in phosphate fertiliser use.

The supervisory team drawn from the UEA and Rothamsted Research offers a holistic interdisciplinary research project supervised by experts in environmental microbiology and plant phytate biology.

You will learn bioinformatics, metagenomics and transcriptomics, applying them to determine which microorganisms are responsible for phytate transformations in different soils. You will learn enzymology required to make phytate tracers that you will add to different soils to identify the metabolites made by different microbial communities. You will be instrumental in exchanging skills/technical approaches between the host laboratory and its other academic partners. You will engage with the disciplines of bioinformatics, plant biology and soil science and have opportunity to chart a project of wholly novel provenance.

You must be a numerate graduate of biological/biochemical or soil science, with demonstrable passion for development of a career in science.