Website Wageningen University

We are looking for a motivated PhD candidate with interest in sustainable crop production and biodiversity. Do you want to be a member of our team at Crop & Weed Ecology Group of Wageningen University, Plant Science? We would like to get in contact with you.

Agricultural production worldwide faces huge challenges with respect to environmental sustainability, climate change, labour and society. A paradigm shift is required for the next-generation agricultural production systems that are sustainable, circular and regenerative.

The large Synergia research program (, within which the successful candidate will be working, addresses this need through the new Technology for Ecology (T4E): biological/ecological principles in farming lead the development of new farming systems, and by that the required technological knowledge, principles and tools. This PhD project will specifically aim to generate a better understanding, through experimentation and simulation modelling, on how the simultaneous cropping of plant species (called intercropping) suppresses weeds, and how this knowledge can be used to improve our cropping systems.

The candidate will be placed in the Crop & Weed Ecology Group (CWE) of Wageningen University, Plant Sciences. We do research on the ecology and management of crops, diseases and weeds. We study plant form and adaptation, and ecological processes from plant to landscape scale. We thereby contribute to the development of sustainable agricultural systems that provide high yields with a minimal ecological footprint and that maximally benefit from and contribute to natural biodiversity and its associated ecosystem functions. The PhD will contribute to the quantitative ecology theme of the group, and particularly to the areas of functional diversity in crops  and weed ecology.

Because of differential use of resources between species, intercrops tend to be more resource use efficient than sole crops. The focus of this project will be on whether intercrops result in enhanced weed suppression and the extent to which a more complete use of resources by the crops contributes to this ecosystem service. The PhD candidate will analyse how this effect is mediated by crop traits, including plasticity, and crop planting patterns. For this the candidate will use a combination of field and greenhouse competition experiments and a 3D plant simulation model extended with crop-weed interactions. Also, the candidate will analyse how a concomitantly reduced weed seed production will contribute to strategic weed management in a crop-rotational context with a weed trait based demographic model

This PhD project requires experimentation skills as well as modelling skills. Within Synergia’s T4E concept, the research will be conducted in collaboration with the partners that focus on the technological, societal and applied aspects of the project. The suitable candidate therefore has knowledge on ecology, plant science, or agronomy, is creative, has a clear affinity with ecological modelling and experimentation, and has good communicative skills enabling him/her to engage with group and project members. Contribution to teaching (up to 10% of work time) is welcomed but not obligatory.

Function Requirements

We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with the following qualifications:

  • An MSc degree in plant science, biology, agronomy, or related discipline;
  • Experience or at least affinity with experimental and quantitative modelling methods (modelling, systems analysis, simulation, etc);
  • Interest in sustainable crop production and biodiversity in The Netherlands, as well as in fundamental questions in the domain of plant-plant interactions and crop-weed competition;
  • Ability to think, express, write and communicate scientifically;
  • Proficiency in English, both orally and written.
  • Affinity to work within a larger multi-disciplinary project

Deadline for application

This vacancy will be listed up to and including 01 December 2021. We hope to schedule the first job interviews on 6 and 7 December 2021. The preferred starting date for this position is February 2022.

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