PhD Studentship Biofuels from green plants: identifying the mechanism for enhanced crop growth in biochar

PhD Supervisor: Professor Gail Taylor, co supervisor Dr A Marchant

Application Deadline: 26 June 2013

Funding: Funded PhD project

PhD Position: Biochar is a carbon (C)-rich solid or liquid formed when biomass is used to produce bioenergy. This ‘black carbon’ has been suggested as a solution to climate change, potentially reducing global anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases by 12 %, as well as promoting increased crop growth. Increases in crop growth can be large – by more than 100%. How biochar application to soil leads to better crop yields remains open to speculation, but clearly, if biochar is to be widely applied to soils, to ensure the ‘carbon neutrality’ of bioenergy crops, then further investigation is warranted. Using the model plant Arabidopsis and global gene expression arrays, we have identified, for the first time, a suite of genes that are sensitive to biochar application and the aim of this PhD is to investigate the functional significance of these genes using controlled environment, glasshouse and field application of the biochar. Our field sites are currently in Sussex, France and Italy.

Training opportunity: This PhD provides an exciting opportunity to join a large research group, well-funded and with several on-going plant biofuel projects, including being part of the FP7 funded EUROCHAR ( ) and EXPEER ( ). The student will receive training in plant molecular biology, and quantitative genetics using a range of mutants and other genetic resources to test our hypothesis on modes of action of biochar. In additional, the project could combine molecular approaches with those of field biology, where we are also investigating the soil meta-genome following biochar application. Scope exists to develop the project in several different ways, depending on findings.

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Applications should be submitted online at and general enquiries should be made to Professor Gail Taylor at 

Closing date: Mid June 2013. Interviews will be held in July 2013.

The project is funded for 3 years and welcomes applicants from the UK and EU who have or expect to obtain at least an upper second class degree in a Biological or allied subject. Funding will cover fees and a stipend at current research council rates of £13,726 per annum.

Due to funding restrictions this is only open to EU/ UK applicants

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