Restoration of degraded pasture exposed to localised salinity and erosion

Understanding the biological, physical and chemical components of soil fertility during restoration

This research will investigate the implementation of novel regenerative agriculture practices during the restoration of degraded pasture exposed to localised salinity and erosion. It will include practices such as the use of biochar permeable barriers at different scales, in combination with tree-planting and introduction of perennial agricultural pasture species.

The study will be based on the UWA Farm near Pingelly, Western Australia and will involve collaborating with local farmers and a compost producer. The aim will be to quantify biological, physical and chemical components of soil fertility during the soil restoration phase.

Soil microbial processes associated with regenerative agriculture practices will be studied in parallel with pasture and tree productivity over three years. Both field and glasshouse experiments will be included to identify mechanisms involved in transformation of the soil’s biological, physical and chemical conditions. The research will emphasise mechanisms underpinning soil-microbe-plant interactions and contribute to identifying practical options to ameliorate degraded soil conditions to improve plant productivity and soil restoration.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Abbott LK, Macdonald LM, Wong MTF, Webb MJ, Jenkins SN, Farrell M (2018) Potential roles of biological amendments for profitable grain production – A review. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 256: 34-50

Mickan BS, Abbott LK, Fan, J-W, Hart MM, Siddique KHM, Solaiman ZM and Jenkins SN (2018) Application of compost and clay under water-stressed conditions influences functional diversity of rhizosphere bacteria. Biology and Fertility of Soils 54: 55-70

Abbott LK and Manning DAC (2015) Soil health and related ecosystem services in organic agriculture. Sustainable Agriculture Research 4: 116-125

Shanmugam S, Abbott LK, Murphy DV (2014) Clay addition to lime-amended biosolids overcomes water repellence and provides nitrogen supply in an acid sandy soil. Soil Biology and Fertility of Soils 50: 1047-1059

Research team leader: Emeritus Professor Lynette Abbott

My area of research expertise is in soil health, soil biological fertility and plant-microbe interactions, including the roles or arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in agricultural soils. My research focuses on the role of soil biological processes linked to the efficiency of nutrient acquisition by plants and includes bio-chemical and bio-physical interactions associated with organic and mineral soil amendments.

How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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