Role of soil microorganisms

Understanding how soil amendments can maximise nutrient efficiency and soil health

This project will investigate the roles of soil organisms in nutrient cycling in horticultural and agricultural production systems for a range of soil amendments and crop rotations. It will include understanding the potential of novel organic fertilisers reliant on microbial processes and how to harness their use in nutrient release to meet the requirements of plants.

The research will increase understanding of how balanced soil amendments can maximise nutrient use efficiency with a focus on soil health. It will collaborate closely with Wide Open Agriculture, which is establishing diversified agricultural systems in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia.

The project will emphasise protecting and extending biodiversity, improving soil health and restoring waterways. The role of efficient nutrient use in such systems will be the focus on how to maximise contributions from soil biota in parallel with sustainable nutrient inputs to develop and sustain soil biological fertility whilst maintaining productivity.

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

Weerasekara A, Jenkins A, Abbott LK, Waite I, McGrath JW, Larma I, Eroglu E, O'Donnell A and Whiteley AS (2016) Microbial phylogenetic and functional responses within zcidified wastewater communities exhibiting enhanced phosphate uptake. Bioresource Technology 220: 55-61 

Jaafar NM Clode PL and Abbott LK (2015) Biochar-soil interactions in four agricultural soils. Pedosphere 25: 729-736

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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