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PhD project: Enhancing spring onion yield and quality through an understanding of in-field variation

Applications Closed

PhD title: Enhancing spring onion yield and quality through an understanding of in-field variation

PhD Start date: 2 October 2017

Application Deadline: 21 April 2017

PhD Supervisor(s): Mr Robert Lillywhite (University of Warwick), Dr John Clarkson (University of Warwick), Phil Langley (G's)

Funding: Tuition fees in full at the Home/EU rate. An annual stipend of at least £14,553 for 4 years

Project Description:

An eye-wateringly exciting opportunity has arisen for an enthusiastic individual to work on a collaborative PhD studentship between the University of Warwick, a UK top 10 university, and G’s, one of Europe’s leading family-owned fresh produce company, growing and supplying a vast array of high quality crops to all the major UK retailer and many European retailers. 

In-field crop establishment and performance is influenced by many different and complex factors (e.g. weather, soil health and quality, agronomy, and pests and diseases) which can result in considerable variation in yield and quality at harvest. As a consequence, understanding and managing causes of variation is critical to achieve efficient and sustainable food production.

The project will examine the production of spring onions over three growing seasons with research divided into proactive and reactive components. Proactive activities include the imposition of treatments to examine agronomic practices and inherent levels of pests and diseases while reactive components include physiological damage arising from environmental and pest and disease issues. Yield mapping, harnessing state of the art remote sensing technology and associated plant and soil analyses, will be undertaken to investigate and quantify crop variation in detail.

The project involves laboratory and field based research and the student will spend a year embedded in the G’s business focusing their research in a real-world context. The student will be based in Warwickshire with the opportunity to visit G’s businesses across the UK and in Senegal. This studentship will suit an individual who wants to learn from both academia and commercial environments but who probably wants a career in the latter.

This project offers the opportunity to undertake a multi-component research project that incorporates both modern molecular science with real-world agronomy and includes aspects of soil science, plant nutrition, plant pathology and precision agriculture.

This project is part of a BBSRC-funded Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP) between the Waitrose Partnership, their international food production and supply companies, University of Warwick, Lancaster University, the University of Reading and Rothamsted Research. Between 2017 and 2023, the CTP will deliver 20 four-year studentships on the themes of sustainable crop production, sustainable soil and water and biodiversity and ecosystem services in agriculture.”

Key experimental skills involved:

Agronomy, soil science, plant nutrition, yield mapping, disease and pathogen identification, laboratory investigations


Anstis A, Wicks T & Pederick S. Research investigating casue and management of onion stunting in SA. South Australian Research and development Institute.

Joernsgaard B & Halmoe S. 2003. Intra-field variation over crops and years. European Journal of Agronomy 19: 23-33.

Keywords: Fresh produce, agriculture, horticulture, spring onion, yield variation, field mapping, agronomy, plant, disease, soilborne fungus


Applications are encouraged from UK and EU students.

To be eligible for a full funding award (Tuition fees and Stipend) a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long then can stay and
  • Been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences) and
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for th epurpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals).

To be eligible for a tuition fees only award:

Students from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a fees-only award.

  • a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU, in the same way as UK students must be ordinarily resident in the UK.
  • Make an initial project enquiry by contacting Dr Robert Lillywhite (
  • Complete the online application form - choose PhD in Biological Sciences (C1P0) and enter Waitrose/Lillywhite in the Finance section.
  • Upload a transcript from your current or previous study, a CV and any other documents that you feel would support your application (within 24 hours of submitting your online applicaion you will receive a link allowing you to upload additional supporting documents).
  • Ask your referees to submit a reference for you. Note: when you submit your application, an email will automatically be sent to your referees requesting a reference for you. This email will contain a secure link for your referee to upload a reference for you.

Exact date to be confirmed.