REID_U23MORLEY: Not all soil carbon is equal


The NFU’s 2040 Vision for Net Zero Farming recognises soil carbon sequestration as an important component within its strategy; while the Food and Agriculture Organisation highlights the fundamental importance of soil biodiversity to support a wide range of ecosystems services.

Soil carbon, as the cornerstone of soil food webs, is the lowest common denominator that underpins and regulates all soil ecosystem services. However, not all soil carbon is equal; some carbon is easily degraded and sustains soil life, while other carbon persists and provides long-term carbon storage.

Through assessment of a portfolio of existing trials the research will consider the influence of recent and previous soil carbon amendments and regenerative interventions.

Carbon stability will be profiled, and the fate of this carbon modelled to provide a prognosis of carbon storage “permanence”. Mesofauna assemblages will be assessed using traditional pitfall trapping and eDNA approach will be developed and applied to profile mesofauna and microflora taxa/communities. Reading across the trial portfolio you will establish linkages between soil carbon assets and soil health outcomes. The results will be contextualised in terms of natural capital value and emerging markets aligned to soil carbon, biodiversity net-gain and other agri-ecosystem commodities.

This research is essential to informing decisions regarding direct carbon amendments and regenerative approaches that aspire to increase soil carbon and improve soil health. The results from this research will interface with DEFRA policy and the Soil Carbon Code that is currently under development.

The supervisory team spans the world-renowned Norwich Research Park with supervisors at UEA, John Innes Centre and Earlham Institute. Partnership with The Wendling Beck Environment Project ( and Greenworld Ltd ( will support access to trial sites. The studentship has been funded by The Morley Agriculture Foundation (, who bring a wealth of experience to the supervisory team.


  1. Mao et al., 2022 Recycling paper to recarbonise soil. STOTEN.
  2. Keenor et al., 2021: Capturing a soil carbon economy. Royal Society Open Science.
  3. Li et al., 2019: Organic Carbon Amendments Affect the Chemodiversity of Soil Dissolved Organic Matter and Its Associations with Soil Microbial Communities. ES&T.
  4. Ling et al., 2022: Biochar induces mineralization of soil recalcitrant components by activation of biochar responsive bacteria groups. SBB.
  5. Fioratti et al. 2021: Two designs of hypogean pitfall trap with differing sampling port areas: a comparison of their catch sizes, compositions and resultant biodiversity scores. 10.6084/M9.FIGSHARE.14959830

Funding, Eligibility and Additional Information:

The Morley Agricultural Foundation (TMAF) is offering a fully-funded studentship for October 2023 entry and is awarded with a 4-year Morley Agricultural Foundation PhD studentship.

The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend to cover living expenses (2022/3 stipend rate: £17,668), and a Research Training Support Grant of £5,000 p.a. for each year of the studentship.

The programme offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme provided by the UKRI-BBSRC Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP).

You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers.

Morley PhD students will benefit from direct interaction with end users of their research, including TMAF Board and Advisory Board members through annual meetings and on farm experience.

Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 24, 25 or 26 January 2023.

This Morley studentship is available to candidates eligible for Home fee status only; we will not be accepting applications from international candidates.

Visit NRPDTP’s website for further information on academic eligibility and how to apply:

TMAF and the NRPDTP value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.