Wednesday, July 9, 2014

PhD positions sandwich model: University of Hohenheim and African counterparts

Up to 3 PhD positions (sandwich model with African counterparts)

University of Hohenheim (Stuttgart, Germany) with its long-standing inter-disciplinary and internationally-orientated research tradition in natural sciences, agricultural science, economic and social science offers up to three researcher positions (Dr. sc. agr.) within the BMZ-funded research project “LegumeCHOICE - Realizing the underexploited potential of multi-purpose legumes towards improved livelihoods and a better environment in crop-livestock systems in East & Central Africa”. The project is coordinated by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (Kenya) with close cooperation with national counterparts in Kenya (ICRAF, KARI), Ethiopia (ILRI, EIAR), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (UCB). Hence, the
selected candidates will have the opportunity to work in an exciting and international environment.
On equal qualification, candidates with nationalities of the respective target countries (i.e., Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya) will be preferred. The positions are subject to additional successful co-funding by project partners and external funding agencies (e.g., DAAD). 

Background and project goal: Current farm-level production and productivity of legumes is limited for many areas of the humid tropics (e.g., Kenya, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo) and below what is technically feasible. Reasons underlying the limited success include (i) focus on a specific class of legumes without considering the overall farming systems, (ii) ‘pushing’ a specific legume technology rather than responding to specific farmers’ constraints and objectives, (iii) promoting legume technologies in absence of an enabling environment for their uptake, and (iv) lack of detailed understanding of the priorities and constraints faced by farm systems. LegumeCHOICE will address these issues by providing the missing links between existing research efforts, farmer demands, and an enabling environment for legume cultivation. The overall goal of the project is to improve food and nutrition security, reduce poverty, and enhance the production environment of smallholder farmers and rural populations through facilitation of the smart integration and use of multi-purpose legumes, providing food, protein, feed, fuel, and/or organic matter in crop-livestock systems. LegumeCHOICE will provide knowledge to farmers and development partners facilitating farmers to make rational decisions for enhancing short and long-term contributions of multi-purpose legumes to farmer livelihoods including aspects of legume production, input supply systems, and markets.

PhD studies will focus on the following research areas:
  • Nitrogen (N) cycling in legume-based cropping systems: this topic will focus on biological N fixation and its contribution to crop quality and soil fertility. Field and lab-based analyses will include the assessment of geochemical N fluxes in tested cropping systems with the overall goal to identify those particular legumes providing the best short- to long-term productivity potential under local soil and climatic conditions.
  • Carbon (C) cycling in legume-based cropping systems: this topic will focus on the contribution of identified legumes to C sequestration and energy provision for microbial processes (with close links to N cycling). On basis of field and lab-based analyses, the focus will be carbon use efficiency of decomposing soil microbes as regulated by biochemical quality and hence decomposability of organic inputs deriving from tested legumes.
  • Biophysical modelling of legume-based cropping systems identified according to farmers’ requirements will allow comparative analyses of their benefits and trade-offs under various management options. Scenarios will include crop rotations and intercropping, inputs, timing of management (cropping, manure application) and different legume types. Biomass formation, soil C sequestration and N cycling will be evaluated for each scenario. Model parameters will be measured in field experiments representing the main system options. In a following step, LegumeCHOICE uses the outputs of the biophysical model to give recommendations for legume-crop combinations considering long-term sustainability of the systems.

According to your qualification, please select only one core topic for your detailed application, but indicate, if applicable, your interest in another topic.
  • Strong knowledge of and affinity to crop and/or soil sciences as well as soil biology.
  • Strong knowledge of studying terrestrial N and C cycling as well as biochemical quality of plants.
  • Experience in performance of greenhouse and field experiments is an asset.
  • For the modelling study, good mathematical skills and experience in biophysical modelling are required,
  • Good working knowledge of English is a must.
  • Intercultural competence and willingness to stay at University of Hohenheim for academic (PhD study program) and research work.

Candidates will be based at the Institute of Plant Production and Agroecology in the Tropics and Subtropics under the supervision of Professor Dr Georg Cadisch, Dr Frank Rasche and Dr Carsten Marohn. Logistics of field trips to target countries will be supported by local research partners.
Starting date and duration
Earliest start of studies is 01 October 2014, duration is 36 months.
Contact for more information
Dr Frank Rasche, phone: +49-711 459 24137, email:
Your application should be sent electronically to with only ONE pdf document as attachment including your motivation letter and research ideas to the research topic selected, CV, BSc/MSc-study transcripts and three recommendation letters.
Application deadline is 26 July 2014.

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