Cranfield University, in collaboration with the National Institute of Agricultural Botany is seeking a highly motivated graduate to undertake this exciting research project which aims to deploy a previously developed portable multi-sensor kit for the measurement of soil compaction through the soil profile, to be used as input data for soil loosening recommendations. *Please note the eligibility criteria for this studentship has been amended. Residents from UK and EU are now eligible for the FULL funding award. Read more Read less

This project will seek to improve methods for quantifying and alleviating deep seated compaction at greater depths, of up to 60 cm. Techniques for loosening compact soils are well established to operate to depths of up to 45 cm, although experimental evidence on their benefits to yield and soil structure are varied. There appears, therefore, to be a need to improve methods for the assessment and evaluation of the degree of compaction at greater depths, of up to 60 cm, and to improve our understanding of its impact on crop performance.

The characterisation of soil compaction with depth is a key requirement to managing soil compaction at depth. This PhD project will expand the applicability of a prototype multi-sensor to measure soil compaction in the topsoil to quantify soil compaction through the soil profile to a depth of up to 60 cm utilising NIAB’s established contemporary tillage experiments (New Farming Systems (NFS) and Sustainability Trial in Arable Rotations (STAR).

Further field experiments will then develop and test this prototype multi-sensor to quantify soil compaction through the soil profile. Due to the limitations of mechanical alleviation of soil compaction below the critical depth, the impact of mitigation approaches (including a range of cover crops species and duration of residence) on soil structure, crop performance and yield will be quantified. Previous scientific literature has reported that the roots of some brassica and legume cover crops may also play a role in penetrating and loosening the soil below the cultivated layers of the soil, even below the layers that can be lifted by a subsoiler.

Upon completion it is envisaged this study will provide practical information and financial analysis on which systems would deliver the greatest return to growers for managing deep seated compaction. The project would also provide an engineering-based tool that would allow for quantifying soil compaction through the soil profile to a depth of up to 60 cm.

The student will be based at the Cranfield Soil and AgriFood Institute, at the School of Energy, Environment and AgriFood. All study sites and experimental work will take place at NIAB experimental fields in East Anglia. This will require the student to work in close collaboration with staff at NIAB. He/she will need to present their research findings regularly to the project team.

At a glance

  • Application deadlineOngoing
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Duration of award3 years
  • EligibilityEU, UK
  • Reference numberCRAN1092


Prof Wilfred Otten –Professor of Soil Biophysics at Cranfield Soil and Agrifood institute
Dr Sarah De Baets – Lecturer Plant Soil Systems
Dr. Nathan Morris – Farming Systems and Soil Specialist at NIAB TAG

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or second class UK honour degree or equivalent in a related discipline, such as soil mechanics, sensing and agronomy. We are seeking a qualified agricultural engineer, mechanical engineer, soil scientist or geologist, who is interested in soil management and land use, geo-statistics, sensors, and field work.


Sponsored by Felix Thornley Cobbold Agricultural Trust and Chadacre Agricultural Trust, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £15,000 - £ 18,000 p.a. (tax free) plus fees* for three years

*Please note the eligibility criteria for this studentship has been amended. Residents from UK and EU are now eligible for the FULL funding award.

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This Network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas, identify opportunities for collaboration and create smaller communities of practice.  It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

When applying or enquiring about this research position please quote the research title and reference number: CRAN1092

If you are eligible to apply for this research studentship, please complete the online application form

For further information contact us today:

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