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Project Summary

Area of Science:
Plant and insect ecology/biology
4 Years
Closing Date/Time:
December 4th 2023 at 12:00pm
Host University:
University of Reading
Science Department:
Protecting Crops and the Environment

Project Description

Colman’s are the best-known producers of English mustard and mint sauce.  Unilever own the brand and have funding to support farmers to adopt regenerative agriculture practises which reduce the products’ carbon footprint and increase biodiversity. A fully funded 4-year PhD studentship is available to work with the English Mustard Growers (EMG) farmers’ group to investigate different practises to reduce insecticide use and increase biodiversity in mustard and mint crops. 

The PhD student will use a variety of techniques to sample crops grown by EMG farmers testing the hypothesis that increased companion plant diversification will decrease pest abundance and increase biodiversity and biocontrol. Commercial field-scale experiments will be supplemented by more controlled field plot experiments on Rothamsted farm and in controlled-environment field simulators. Mechanisms of action will be investigated in laboratory/controlled environment behavioural bioassays (e.g. olfactometry).  Novel pest control strategies e.g. repellents, biofumigation, etc., could also be tested for effects on both pests and their natural enemies. The student will work with EMG farmers to co-design experimental approaches and will engage with them in developing methods for quick and easy biomonitoring by farmers themselves to assess the impacts of selected regen ag practises. 

The student will be based at Rothamsted Research UK (the world’s oldest agricultural research institute) and registered at the University of Reading.  They will have access to training from both partners as well as affiliation to the ENVISION Doctoral Training Partnership.  Funding is available for UK-based students; overseas students are welcome to apply but will need to cover additional overseas student University fees themselves. 


Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant research or non-academic experience.

Funding Details

This fully-funded* four year studentship is fully funded by Unilever and will cover:

  • a stipend (at the standard UKRI rate; £18,622 per annum for 2023-2024)
  • research and training costs
  • tuition fees *
  • affiliation with Envision DTP

* International students will be required to cover the difference between home and international tuition fees.

How to Apply

To apply to this project, please ensure the following are completed and returned:

Please follow the individual instructions on each form and then complete and return them to by midday on 30th November 2023. 

For your application to be considered we will also need you to contact your referees and request for them to complete and return the above Reference form. They will need to complete this and return it to us by midday on 30th November 2023.

To complete each form above, please click on the link provided, then go to the File tab and then go to Download and choose Microsoft Word (.docx) and this should give you a clear document which you can then complete and return to

All instructions for the application process can be found on the individual forms, but please contact if any clarification on this is needed or if you are having issues with our form.