Animal Science


4 Years


Monday, December 7, 2020 - 00:00


Sustainable Agriculture Sciences


University of Bristol


Climate change is increasingly affecting pasture-based livestock production in the UK. May 2020 was the driest since 1896 across the country; spring 2018 saw precipitation levels at less than 20% the long-term average in the South West. These dry periods occurred at crucial times for pasture growth, with pasture production reduced to as low as 30% the long-term average for that time of year. 

Droughts result in significant economic losses to grassland farmers due to smaller and poorer quality animals, reduced milk yields, additional costs to purchase supplementary feed produced off-farm, and knock-on effects into the following winter due to limited silage production. Moreover, future climate predictions suggest that these extreme events are likely to increase in frequency over the next decades. A proactive solution is clearly needed, yet no concrete measure has been undertaken at the national scale.

We thus ask — should we start irrigating our grasslands like many other regions in the world? Is it an economically sensible strategy to adopt for farmers? And if so, what will be the environmental consequences? On the one hand, forced diversion of water may invite higher environmental costs, for example a greater carbon footprint (from pumping) and biodiversity losses (from reduced water table). On the other hand, if we are able to produce more food more reliably from a fixed area of land, then the society-wide environmental outcome may be more desirable than the status quo today.

Through an interconnected series of studies connecting glasshouse and field experiments, economic and environmental modelling, and spatial mapping techniques, this project will investigate where, when and why irrigating pastures in the UK will be economically viable and environmentally sustainable. The project will consider a diverse range of water sources (e.g. mains supply, on-farm reservoirs and surface/subsurface abstraction) as well as pasture utilisation methods (e.g. grazing, silage, hay and bioenergy), for all grassland regions in the UK under multiple climate scenarios. Supported by an interdisciplinary team of well-renowned supervisors across Rothamsted Research and University of Bristol, the student will acquire a wide and robust skillset required to tackle modern agricultural research — including plant science, soil science, livestock science, hydrology, environmental science, spatial statistics and agricultural economics.

Main experiments for this project will be carried out at Rothamsted's North Wyke Farm Platform (Devon). Additional data under different soils, weathers and topographies will be collected through GrassCheckGB, a national network of grassland farms with real-time data monitoring capability.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Statement

We want to support diverse and inclusive work environments. We therefore welcome applications from individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, or disability status. We welcome applications from individuals who have previously studied at any recognised Higher Education Institute and from a range of career paths (please refer to the SWBio DTP academic criteria for eligibility), including individuals who have previously trained in the sciences and are wanting to return to scientific research.

We particularly encourage applications from BAME* and mature (this is classed as 30+ years) individuals as these backgrounds are currently underrepresented within our student cohort. *Black, Asian and minority ethnic.


Applicants for a 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 non-academic experience.

In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, a minimum of a grade B in A-level Maths or an equivalent qualification or experience is required.

Equivalent qualifications/experience

Physics A-level (grade B and above)

Undertaking units as part of your degree that have a significant mathematical component*

*Significant mathematical component examples include; maths, statistics, bioinformatics.

Applicants must ensure they highlight their Maths background within their application and to upload any supporting evidence.


UKRI have recently updated their policy for funded studentships which starts from the 2021/2022 academic year.

IMPORTANT: Please refer to the UKRI Full Eligibility Criteria alongside the information provided below.

Home students

Fully-funded studentships are available for Home students.  To be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or

Have settled status, or

Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirement) or,

Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

International students

If you do not meet the above criteria, you will be classed as an International student.

A very limited number of funded studentships are available for International applicants, and these may only be available through some of our partners.  Further details about how to apply to the SWBio DTP will be provided here in due course.

Therefore, we are currently unable to accept applications from applicants who would be classed as an International student, unless the studentship can be externally funded (including self-funded) to the DTP.  However, in the meantime, we do welcome you to approach supervisors of projects you may be interested in.

To be eligible for a fully-funded studentship, you must meet the below academic and residence criteria.

A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover:

- a stipend* (at the standard UKRI rate; £15,009 per annum for 2019-2020)

- research and training costs

- tuition fees (at the standard UKRI rate)

- additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship

To apply for this project, please complete our Rothamsted PhD Application Form which can be found in the downloads section of this advert.

All applications should include a fully completed application form, CV, a transcript of module marks and two references.

The reference form which will need to be completed by your referees can be found on the downloads section of this project. These references should be sent directly from the referees to Donna Fellowes; by the deadline: Midnight, 7th December 2020.