Optimisation of manure processing: towards more sustainable application of manure-based fertilizers.

Published on
September 9, 2021
Location Leeuwarden
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We are looking for

Research challenges - Manure digestion and other (post- or pre-) treatments can improve the sustainability of agriculture practices by allowing increased reintroduction of carbon and nutrients in the food chain. However, the impact of such treatments on C and nutrient fluxes needs to be elucidated, especially in relation to the effect of the processed manure on C-uptake and GHG emissions in soils. Key factors to achieve more effective use of manure in agriculture are to elucidate the effect of organic inputs (and the microorganisms associated) on microbial community in relation to soil C dynamics. Insight obtained from this research will enable the development of manure treatments strategies to maximize soil functionality and fertility.

Objectives and methodology - The goal of this research project is to test and design manure treatments for agriculture use in order to achieve most optimal effects with respect to organic matter stabilization and reduction of nutrient loss and GHG emissions. The approach of this research consists in coupling bioprocesses technology and soil science. A first step will be to select and characterize manure treatments and identify suitable processes and related parameters as potential engineering targets for optimized manure treatments. Second step will be to optimize the processes via organic source addition with the aim to optimize nutrient stoichiometry. The third step will be to assess the effect of treated manure on soil properties with regards to C-uptake and GHG emission and identify the best manure treatments for the development of manure-based bio-fertilizer.

We ask

We are looking for a highly motivated biotechnologist (MSc degree) with affinity for soil microbiology. The ideal candidates should be a team player with excellent communication skills. Knowledge of complex analytical tools for microbial and/or organic matter characterization and of the basics of composting/digestion/fermentation is considered an advantage.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will of course receive a good salary.

More information

Academic Supervisors: Dr. Miriam van Eekert (Environmental Technology (ETE), Wageningen University) and Dr. Paul Bodelier (Microbial Ecology department Netherlands Institute of Ecology - NIOO-KNAW)
Wetsus Supervisor: Dr. Valentina Sechi (Theme Coordinator Soil)
University promotor: Prof. dr. ir Cees J.N. Buisman (Environmental Technology (ETE), Wageningen University)

You can apply by selecting your vacancy on Applications directly to WUR will not be taken into consideration. The procedure to apply is written in detail on

Only applications that are complete, in English, and submitted via the application webpage before the deadline will be considered eligible.

Keywords: Organic matter, N-emission, C-uptake, microbial processes, soil microbiota

We are

Topic background - Increasing soil carbon sequestration while lowering GHG-emissions and maintaining crop yields is one of the biggest societal and scientific challenges. Manure is commonly used as organic fertilizer and source for organic matter and nutrients in agriculture. However, current manure application often leads to increased GHG emissions as well as eutrophication of surface waters. Moreover, the effect of treated manure on the composition and functioning of soil microbiome and the subsequent implications for carbon sequestration and stabilization in soil, are not well understood. Optimization of manure processing may enable a better use of the nutrients, e.g. by adapting composition to enhance higher nutrient uptake rates. Focusing on the bioprocesses occurring during manure treatments and on the interaction between manure-associated microorganisms and soil properties bears the potential to reduce GHG emissions from the agricultural sector while contributing to the circular economy by sequestering more carbon.

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