Silage Microbiologist / Biochemist: UK

Rothamsted Research is seeking a postdoctoral scientist with a PhD in animal science, microbiology, biochemistry or a similar field for a short-term position funded through the Cornwall Agri-Tech initiative, which is supported by an investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

There is an increasing interest in the use of multi-species swards/herbal leys/diverse forages. A significant proportion of Cornwall’s utilisable agricultural area is grassland, either permanent pasture or temporary leys, dominated largely by a limited range of ryegrass and clover varieties. There is now increasing recognition of the potential to exploit the functional contrasts between species that enable them to co-exist within the same ecological niche, and to deliver a much broader range of benefits, including multiple ecosystem services.

Whilst considerable research both nationally and internationally has previously gone into exploring the benefits associated with multi-species swards, this information is disparate, hard to access for farmers and advisors and not tailored to the soil and management conditions prevalent in Cornwall.

Both Rothamsted Research and Duchy College bring a wealth of expertise and experience in grassland and soils research and they will bring this knowledge together to form a multi-species sward hub which will work with Cornish based SMEs to generate products and services to support a growing interest in multi-species leys. This position will investigate the best optimum mixtures and conditions which will ensure high quality silage production from diverse forage mixtures so that a major issue associated with adoption of these multifunctional swards can be overcome. Such research will include choice of: varieties, cutting time, wilting length, additives – inoculants and enzymes and clamp / bale conditions. Initially we will use the plot trials set up at Rothamsted Research to investigate the silage quality of different multispecies mixes in respect to: a) nutritional value (crude protein, metabolisable energy, fibre fractions); b) silage stability (pH decline, protein degradation products); c) aerobic stability (temperature rise at opening). These will be conducted in mini silos and will give indicators for the potential of the mixtures to ensile and drive animal performance. We will then use resources across Rothamsted, Duchy and commercial farms to investigate the improvement of multispecies swards through farm based decisions: a) cutting time and height; b) wilting time; c) use of additives. The output of the research will inform farmers of the best species composition and management practices to produce high quality silage which will compete in terms of animal performance with predominant grassland leys.

Demonstrated understanding of silage production and grazing livestock systems is essential (and preferably within temperate grasslands). Experience in, or knowledge of, pasture productivity measurements and silage microbiology or biochemistry is essential. Furthermore, the successful applicant will be able to work collaboratively with academic and industry partners, will have excellent written and verbal communication skills in English, competence in data analysis, and a clear history of publication in peer-reviewed journals would be beneficial.

As a member of Rothamsted’s Grazing Livestock Systems Cluster that strives to promote economic, social and environmental sustainability of ruminant production systems in the UK and beyond, demonstrated willingness to make their research relevant to real-world agricultural producers is also essential.

Enquiries regarding this vacancy should be addressed to Head of Site (North Wyke), Professor Michael Lee (

Interviews to be held 4 September 2018
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