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Industry-funded soil science PhD opportunity

Southern Farming Systems and the Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation are offering an industry-funded three-year PhD scholarship in soil science at Federation University's Mt Helen Campus in Ballarat. This is an excellent opportunity to be paid to undertake your PhD (with the potential for top-ups) in an industry with excellent employment prospects. Why not advance your research career in soil chemistry and agriculture, while being supervised by an award-winning researcher in a supportive environment? Ballarat is only 1.5 hours from Melbourne and is a great regional city in which to live and work.


The Project

Soil acidity is recognised as one of the major soil constraints to increased agricultural productivity in Australia. Lime is a key amendment to address the decline in soil pH.

Lime is an expensive input for mixed and cropping farming systems and its quality can be highly variable. Farmers need to be able to make informed decisions about the quality and cost-effectiveness of lime they purchase. There is also a need for the lime and fertiliser industries to have a reliable methodology to accurately compare different lime types.

This project will explore and develop novel approaches to advance understanding of lime type, quality, variability and spreadability on performance for agricultural purposes under current farming systems and practices.

This project sits within a broader project: Building the resilience and profitability of cropping and grazing farmers in the high rainfall zone of Southern Australia, funded by the Australian Government's National Landcare Program Phase Two.

Industry-funded soil science PhD opportunity
Industry-funded soil science PhD opportunity

Lisa Miller, Research and Extension Officer with Southern Farming Systems - the farmer organisation leading the project - says, "Lime is such an integral part of cropping and mixed farming. Farmers spend a lot of money on lime and we want to be able to help them make good, informed decisions about lime and liming practices. An outcome of the PhD would be to have a way of testing lime quality that we are confident in and is commercially applicable - a reliable methodology to accurately compare different lime types. This PhD project will increase our understanding of the impact of lime type, quality, variability and spreadability on its effectiveness in combating soil acidity on farms."

Find out more

Lisa Miller
Key facts about the limestone industry in Victoria:
  • Limestone manufacturing, spreading and logistics in regional Victoria and southern NSW contribute around $67.5m to the Victorian economy.
  • The industry directly employs around 120 staff in addition to many subcontractors - including engineers, OH&S, laboratories, marketing, maintenance and exploration. More than 300 people are also employed in lime logistics across regional Victoria and NSW.
  • Agricultural lime sales have been increasing by approximately ten per cent per year over the past 15 years.

Source: VLPA



This PhD offers the opportunity to be supervised by an award-winning senior researcher and work in a supportive academic environment.

The PhD supervisors for this project are: Principal Supervisor, Assoc Prof Peter Dahlhaus and Associate Supervisor, Dr Nathan Robinson.

The candidate will also work with an advisory board comprising project partners and key stakeholders.

Assoc Prof Peter Dahlhaus
Dr Nathan Robinson


Project Partners

The lead organisation for this project is Southern Farming Systems - an independent non-profit organisation with five branches across two states. Southern Farming Systems assists farmers in higher rainfall areas with research and information to help them become more profitable. Their focus is on long-term, practical, sustainable solutions.

Southern Farming Systems

The Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation at Federation University (Federation University) is a global leader in data interoperability and leads a range of innovative research programs in the fields of agriculture, natural environment, heritage and culture, hazard planning and resilience, regional development and health and wellbeing.

Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation

The Victorian Lime Producers Association represents the interests of Victorian limestone producers and promotes the use of agricultural limestone to address soil acidity.

Victorian Lime Producers Association

Precision Agriculture is a leading provider of precision agriculture services, enabling customers to improve their productivity and profitability through better and more informed decisions. At Precision Agriculture the mission is to power agricultural performance through technology from data, insight and action.

Precision Agriculture


The Candidate

We're looking for someone who:

  • Is interested in making a difference in regional agriculture
  • Has good research, project management and communication skills
  • Has completed honours level or higher research in soil chemistry, geological or agricultural science
  • Is eligible to undertake a PhD at Federation University and is a permanent resident of Australia

Find out more



Scholarship value: $27,596 per year stipend to support living costs (2019 rate) - 3 year duration.

At Federation University we have financial models to help students to achieve and reward, including other industry top-up stipends, aligned work where opportunities exist (1 day per week).

Associated support funds

Complementary top-up scholarships are accessible through Federation University as part of the Food Agility CRC. Part-time employment for the successful candidate with one of the project partners will also be encouraged and supported.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why study at Federation University?
    • Great environment
    • Regional setting
    • Growing reputation in science and eScience research
    • Excellent supervisors that are responsive and attentive, supporting students to achieve their study goals and aspirations
    • Work as part of a collaborative team - focused on achieving your goals and vision of success
    • Connection with industry partners - conduits to future jobs in industry
    • Develop your skills and knowledge as a future leader in your field
    • Facilities, infrastructure and administrative support are central to ensuring your experience with Federation University is awesome!
  • How will this Higher Degree by Research benefit my future job and earning prospects?

    Agriculture research, development and extension is estimated to require 2,000 graduates per year to meet growing demands from industry. Agriculture support services are anticipated to have employment growth of 7.1% over the next five years with this PhD scholarship representing a great opportunity to enhance your future prospects in a growth job domain. At Federation University we will equip you with analytical, technical and extension skills to maximise your job prospects in industry:

    • Providing opportunities to connect you with industry through existing and enduring relationships.
    • Helping you to work alongside industry as part of the journey and validating your industry credentials in research and delivering value.

    We are here to support you in your future aspirations.


For More Information

If you would like to apply please contact Assoc Prof Peter Dahlhaus to discuss further before making an application.

More information regarding Higher Degree by Research applications can be obtained from Federation University.

Applications can be made through Federation University.

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