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PhD - Reducing the negative impact of agricultural drought by applying biochar to soil

Reducing the negative impact of agricultural drought by applying biochar to soil

This topic offers a multidisciplinary solution to currently highlighted issues such as drought, sustainable agriculture, limitation of nutrient leakage from soil, and also reducing CO2 emissions into the air. All of the above mentioned issues are linked to a common denominator, such as climate change and its associated impacts. This topic is primarily focused on the possibilities of reducing the negative impact of drought episodes in the field of agriculture. For a successful drought resolution, it is important to understand the key soil processes which can minimize the negative impact of climate change. One of these key processes are the hydraulic properties of soils as a set of soil characteristics responsible for water distribution in the soil. These parameters are variable in time and have a number of factors, when one of this is the presence of organic material. This topic is, therefore, focused on the determination of factors responsible for the natural seasonal variability of hydraulic properties and the subsequent solution how to increase the soil water retention after the biochar application. Biochar should therefore have a positive impact on (1) the ability of the soil to fix water as well as the fundamental nutrients (including also other substances); furthermore, (2) its stability in the environment should also be demonstrated; (3) including the resulting impact on increased microbial activity in soil and a positive impact on plant growth.

Scientific aims:

  • Optimization of biochar production for the purpose of significant increasing of water/nutrients retention in soil
  • Preparation of a new substrate (composite of biochar with compost)
  • Influence of biochar on soil hydraulic properties and increase of microbial activity of different soil types, including determination of soil stability
  • Monitoring of the biomass production and stress factors on selected crops (plants)
  • Field experiments (meteorological stations) at selected locations - verification of laboratory results
  • Description and modelling of natural seasonal variability of the soil hydraulic properties at different types of landscape and determining the factors causing these variables
  • Modelling approach which has not yet reflected the time variability of hydraulic properties

Background and Obligations of Ph.D. student:

  • Four-year study; time flexibility; active participation at international conferences
  • Publication activity 1 (at least 1 publication in the journal with IF 2 as first author during study)
  • Pedagogical activities 3 (practices at Environmental Hydrogeology, Field Practice for EGS, consultations on bachelor and diploma theses related to this subject)
  • Obligation to complete a 4-week international internship within this topic
  • Scholarship (average CZK 11,300 per month); possibility to get an internal faculty project up to 3 years (increase of scholarship by 60,000 CZK per year); obtaining extraordinary scholarships (for extra-standard publishing activity or pedagogical practices 4)
  • Salary: approx. 20,000 CZK/month net (800 EUR) + bonuses 

Required documents for the application (send to by March 15): 

  • CV
  • Motivation letter
  • Academic letter of recommendation (by your supervisor)
  • Diploma + Diploma supplement (Transcript of records) 

Funding Notes

  1. In the case of above-standard publishing activities (at least 3 publications) the possibility of writing a dissertation in the form of an annotated work
  2. Publication with impact factor according to Web of Science
  3. The scholarship is gradually increasing along with the fulfilled obligations of the PhD student (9,300 - 13,000 CZK)
  4. Teaching activity over 192 teaching hours until the end of the 3rd year of study¨

QK1910056 (NAZV) Long-term test of the biochar application produced from waste biomass to solve drought in intensively farmed areas of the Czech Republic (CZK 15.2 mil; 2019 – 2023) 

Note that this is just a pre-selection. The selected candidate will be invited to submit official application to the Faculty of Environmental Sciences. 

For more details visit the CZU website