Students encouraged to apply for PhD scholarships

Author: | Date: 19 Oct 2018

image of rowan maddern
GRDC Manager Agronomy, Soils and Farming Systems – West, Rowan Maddern, encourages agricultural or environmental science students, who have completed an honours degree, to apply for PhD scholarships investigating phosphorus and potassium. Photo by GRDC.

Agricultural or environmental science students have an opportunity to further their studies through postgraduate research scholarships investigating nutrients of key importance in Western Australian grain production systems.

Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Manager Agronomy, Soils and Farming Systems – West, Rowan Maddern, encouraged students who had completed an honours degree in these fields to apply for the scholarships – ‘Understanding phosphorus (P) in soil’ and ‘Understanding the role of potassium (K) leaching in crop nutrition’.

A PhD scholarship investigating nitrogen (N) has already been filled.

“These scholarships, each valued at $30,000, are part of a collaborative investment initiated by the GRDC investigating soil N, P and K supply to crops, with a focus on better understanding requirements for fertilisers,” Dr Maddern said.

“The project, worth $9.7 million across five years, is being led by The University of WA (UWA) – through the SoilsWest alliance with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) – and Murdoch University and the University of Adelaide, with involvement from other grains industry stakeholders,” he said.

“This research is part of a broader $14.6 million suite of WA soils and crop nutrition research projects that has investment from the GRDC and co-funding from government, universities and grains industry stakeholders, and aims to improve WA grower profitability through more efficient nutrient use.”

Dr Maddern said the successful applicant for the P scholarship, being offered through UWA under Professor Zed Rengel, would join a multidisciplinary team including personnel from UWA, the University of Adelaide, DPIRD and fertiliser companies.

“The PhD student and the team will characterise the ‘priming’ effect of relatively small amounts of starter P fertiliser on the root and shoot growth of wheat, canola and narrow-leaf lupins,” he said.

“This will feed into knowledge needed to guide changes in P fertiliser management on WA soils, which is necessary given 70 per cent of WA agricultural soils are now estimated to have sufficient P levels with this nutrient having built up from fertiliser application over the years.”

Dr Maddern said the K scholarship, being offered through Murdoch University under Professor Richard Bell, would increase understanding of soil, weather and crop factors influencing leaching, and the effect on K nutrition of wheat and canola.

“Glasshouse and field experiments will be completed and the successful applicant will work under the guidance of experienced researchers from Murdoch University, UWA, DPIRD, CSBP and Summit Fertilizers,” he said.

“This work into K is important given surveys and soil tests indicate K levels, unlike those for P, are becoming increasingly depleted in WA grain cropping soils.”

Dr Maddern said appropriate research and mentoring support would be provided to the successful applicants, along with opportunities to attend national and international conferences.

More information about the scholarships is available on the SoilsWest website at

Contact Details

For Interviews

Rowan Maddern, GRDC
08 9230 4600; 0477 707 225


Natalie Lee, GRDC
0427 189 827

GRDC Project code: UWA1801-002RTX