March 21, 2018

Managing water and nutrients to maximise rice production in Ghana



Sustainably boosting crop yields despite limiting supplies of water and nutrients is a key objective of RECIRCULATE. With a booming African human population, there is an increasing and often unmet demand for food. Enhancing rice production is a national priority in Ghana, with the recent release (by CSIR) of new high-yielding varieties. However, appropriate water management is necessary to maximise yields while limiting the wasteful losses of scarce nitrogen as nitrous oxide (a potent greenhouse gas) emissions. Although alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation could boost crop yields while limiting greenhouse gas emissions, it has not yet been trialled in Ghana. Thus the objectives are to:

  1. Determine plant traits (eg. root porosity and exudation, photosynthetic rates) associated with high-yielding African rice varieties.
  2. Determine the physiological responses of different varieties (released over a historical time series in Ghana) to factorial irrigation x nutrient treatments to understand their sensitivity to AWD irrigation, fertilisers and resulting GHG emissions.
  3. Understand the genetic and management opportunities for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from Ghanaian rice fields.

Optimising water and nutrient use in African agriculture has become an urgent priority for the farming community concerned about food security. This research investigates the opportunities to manage water and nutrients in rice, an important food security crop in West Africa. The aim is to select genotypes and management strategies that lead to higher yields and efficient use of water and fertilisers. To achieve this, rice plants will be grown under lab (in Lancaster) and field conditions (in Ghana). This project will quantify plant traits associated with low carbon and water footprints, understanding the mechanisms that control nitrogen uptake and conversion and assimilate partitioning within the plant.

The successful candidate will join an international and multi-disciplinary team, with vast experience conducting research in sub-Saharan Africa. During the PhD studies, the student will be exposed to the realities of farming in tropical environments and will get training in plants, soils and environmental sciences. There will be opportunities to interact with the farming and research communities in Ghana, understand their challenges and contribute to the solutions.

The project has now recruited.