Name: Hannah Cooper
Project title: Can zero tillage mitigate climate change?
Where based: University of Nottingham
As an undergraduate I studied Environmental Science at The University of Nottingham continuing to study for my MSci also at Nottingham. During the course of my studies I became interested in the mechanisms that drive and regulate environmental change, particularly due to land use change. My MSci gave me the opportunity to spend 8 weeks in Malaysia collecting samples to investigate the effect of land use change in tropical peatlands on greenhouse gas emissions.
My PhD combines these interests by focusing on the role of different tillage practices in releasing greenhouse gas emissions. The PhD also appealed to me as it has a substantial fieldwork element which develops my skills and helps to understand the processes involved.
Zero tillage has been reported to offer many benefits including improved soil quality, reduced fuel costs, possibly enhanced crop yields and significant decreases in greenhouse gases that are frequently released during the cultivation process. However, evidence in the latest literature, especially the two latter points, is conflicting and there remains a significant knowledge gap regarding the extent to which zero tillage practices could contribute to mitigate against climate change through reduced greenhouse gas release. To attempt to address this important question we are creating a large database (through a robust experimental design) to maximise the impact of this research. We plan to take a small number of soil cores (approx. 10cm diameter x 20 cm long) which we will analyse using non-destructive methods, including state of the art X-ray imaging, to investigate how soil structure affects greenhouse gas emissions.