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Greenhouse plant health analysis

Are rhizosphere farming practices the key for a sustainable future?

  • School: School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


Plant-microbe interactions have been the subject of several biotechnological studies, seeking sustainable development and environmental conservation. The inoculation of plant growth-promoting microbes (PGPM) in agricultural crops is considered an environmental-friendly alternative to chemical fertilization. This project will investigate inoculation methods for enhancing soil functionality and fertility, by examining a series of soil, root, and seed inoculation protocols. These methods can be used a biofertilizers, and together with biotic and abiotic factors can affect microbial success.

PGPM improve plant growth by enhancing the availability of nutrients, the regulation of phytohormones, and by increasing plant tolerance against biotic and abiotic stresses. This is an important area of research in conservation and sustainable farming/agriculture because soil and water resources are increasingly under stress, both from anthropogenic and natural reasons.

The project will explore rhizosphere farming practices with the aims to:

  1. Assess the role of abiotic factors (e.g., soil types, soil nutrients, water availability, light intensity, pH, and temperature) for PGPM.
  2. Evaluate how inoculation methods interfere with microbial success.
  3. Examine the plant response to the various conditions (e.g., stages of allelochemicals production, root exudates composition, and plant metabolism).

Selected crops and environmental conditions will be used to test rhizosphere protocols and to develop models and best practices. The project will carry out a series of experiments both in controlled (laboratory) and field conditions to understand the discriminant abiotic factors and influence of inoculation methods. A desirable output of the study would be the setting for the development of software or models to indicate the ideal PGPM to benefit a specific plant species, the best inoculation method, and its action under different abiotic factors.

This study is a unique opportunity to tackle a topical research and practical need that we believe a multi-disciplinary approach can help resolve. This project will be carried out primarily at the Brackenhurst site and estate (Nottingham Trent University), but also linking with the extensive farming community and research network that our group has access to.

The group of researchers involved in the study is multi-disciplinary and will include Dr Marcello Di Bonito (Ecogeochemistry and Soil Conservation, Nottingham Trent University and University of Bologna), prof Diana Di Gioia (Agricultural Microbiology, University of Bologna), Dr Karen Rial-Lovera (Agro-foresty and Agriculture engineering, Nottingham Trent University), and Dr Mauro De Feudis (Rhizosphere and forestry soil,  University of Bologna), but will also have several links with the wider farming community and various research groups at NTU and UNIBO.

Entry qualifications

Entrants must have a Master’s qualification or equivalent experience in soil ecology/microbiology.

How to apply

Please visit our how to apply page for a step-by-step guide and make an application.

The application deadline for this project is Friday 27 January 2023 at 11:59 pm.

Interviews for this project will be conducted on Tuesday 28 February 2023.

Fees and funding

This is a Directly Funded Project for students worldwide.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

Still need help?

Marcello Di Bonito
+44 (0)115 8485316