Impact of nitrification inhibitors on sustainable agriculture


Biogeochemical nitrogen cycling is critically important for food security and climate change. Most soils globally are nitrogen limited, necessitating the use of industrial nitrogen fertiliser. However, up to 70% of the applied nitrogen is lost from the agricultural ecosystems through the activity of ammonia oxidising microorganisms, and emitted as greenhouse gases and leached into rivers and seas. Nitrification inhibitors are one of the mitigation strategies for improving plant crop yield and adverse consequences of nitrogen fertilisation, but there are many unknowns regarding their efficacy and use. This PhD studentship will investigate the effects of nitrification inhibitors on ammonia oxidisers, the whole soil microbial community and crop yield, thereby providing novel insights into improving agricultural management.

The student will receive training in cutting-edge techniques in microbiology, molecular biology (RT-qPCR, high-throughput sequencing), plant-microbe interactions and analytical chemistry and will present their data in departmental seminars and at national and international conferences. The student will join the cohort of PhD students at UEA and attend training courses for research and transferable skills and will join the thriving molecular microbiology themes at UEA and JIC which comprise >100 researchers. This is an exciting collaboration between UEA and JIC: The student will be based at UEA, and will spend time working and training at JIC.

This project is suited to candidates with a BSc or MSc degree in a Microbiology-related disciplines.


Prudence SMM, Newitt JT, Worsley SF, Macey MC, Murrell JC, Lehtovirta-Morley LE, Hutchings MI (2021) Soil, senescence and exudate utilisation: characterisation of the Paragon var. spring bread wheat root microbiome. Environmental Microbiome 16:12.

Lehtovirta-Morley LE, Verhamme D, Nicol GW, Prosser JI (2013) Effect of nitrification inhibitors on the growth and activity of Nitrosotalea devanaterra in culture and soil. Soil Biol Biochem 62: 129-133.

Lehtovirta-Morley LE, Stoecker K, Vilcinskas A, Prosser JI, Nicol GW (2011) Cultivation of an obligately acidophilic ammonia oxidizer from a nitrifying acid soil. PNAS 108:15892-15897.