The 'soil sucker' developing a system for extraction of soil water for nutrient analysis

Closing Date

21st October 2019

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

The Research Project

Growers need a fast, reliable infield means to measure soil NPK in order to manage fertilizer application in a timely, spatially cognisant, and efficient manner. Current soil testing is too slow and too expensive for either precision fertilizer management or reactive 'in crop'  fertilizer management. Whilst there have been major advances in analytical chemistry in recent years. Development of in-paddock nutrient analysis has been hampered by inability to extract a known soil solution from the soil. This project will prototype a mobile device for the extraction of soil water for chemical analysis, from both moist and wet soils. Our approach will apply an extraction fluid containing a tracer directly to the soil, which the 'soil sucker' a portable pumping device will then extract the soil water at known matric potentials and filter the extract ready for analysis. The focus of the research will be the development of the extraction device, and use of in situ extraction fluids and tracers to understand the providence of the soil water.

The project is seeking an exceptional candidate who has knowledge or the ability to acquire working knowledge of relevant aspects of mechanical engineering, soil physics, and analytical chemistry. Support will be provided to the candidate through joint supervision between TIA, Chemistry and Engineering. The PhD will be conducted as part of the CRC for High Performance Soils: Soil Smart Sensors project.

  • Drivers licence
  • Ability to perform field work on farm
  • High level of interpersonal communication skills, and ability to engage in robust conversations with peers

See the following web page for entry requirements:

Assessment Criteria
  • High achieving academic record in the field of either; soil science or analytical chemistry, or mechanical / electronic / mechatronic engineering
  • Demonstrated ability to develop practical, usable mechanical / electronic prototypes
  • Ability to rapidly acquire relevant working knowledge in the fields of engineering, soil physics, and analytical chemistry
  • Highly self motivated, inquisitive and creative approach to research and development
  • Ability to work in a multi disciplinary team, and integrate knowledge across multiple scientific disciplines
Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now website.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact, Marcus Hardie for further information.