Marie Sklodowska Curie Global Fellowship recipient Dr Karina Marsden to join dairy environmental impact and profitability research team

The University of Melbourne’s More Profit from Nitrogen (MFfN) dairy team have successfully secured a prestigious Marie Sklodowska Curie Global Fellowship under the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme.

This Fellowship will bring post-doctoral researcher Dr Karina Marsden to the University’s MPfN team for the next two years in a joint appointment with Bangor University, UK.

Dr Marsden will work with Professor Richard Eckard and Dr Helen Suter in the University of Melbourne’s School of Agriculture and Food to apply her strengths in molecular ecology, stable isotope methods and whole-farm system analyses to the team’s current research capacity across the various MPfN dairy sites.

MPfN is a four-year research partnership between Australia’s four major intensive users of nitrogenous fertilisers (cotton, dairy, sugar and horticulture) which aims to increase nitrogen use efficiency of intensive cropping and pasture systems.

Nitrogen fertilisers are a significant input cost to farmers in each of these industries and a substantial contributor to agriculture’s environmental footprint, particularly the highly damaging greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O).

Collectively, MPfN aims to increase farm profitability while reducing environmental impact by helping farmers to reduce of the amount of nitrogen required to produce each unit of produce.

Dr Marsden completed her PhD in Soil and Environmental Science at Bangor University under the supervision of Professor Dave Chadwick, who collaborated on this fellowship application. Her thesis title was “Sheep urine patch nitrous oxide emissions: Measurement and mitigation.” Dr Karina Marsden

Her post-doctoral research on the Uplands-N2O project at Bangor, investigating nitrous oxide emissions from extensively grazed systems is a robust segue to this post-doctoral Fellowship work.

At the University of Melbourne, Dr Marsden will also contribute to Target-N2O: a project coordinated by Bangor University which aims to establish the potential use of the nitrification inhibitor, dimethylpyrazole phosphate (DMPP), in nitrous oxide mitigation strategies in intensive dairy farming to improve the efficiency.

It has been established that concentrated areas of nitrous oxide emissions on farm (‘hot-spots’) emit large proportions of the total farm nitrous oxide emissions. For example, a recent study in New Zealand found that gateways contributed 9.4 per cent of total farm nitrous oxide emissions despite occupying only 3.2 per cent of the farm area.

Targeting these hotspots for nitrification inhibitor application over a relatively small area has economic significance as this may minimise product and labour costs, but factors controlling the effectiveness of DMPP to reduce nitrogen loss to the environment, and the relative agronomic efficacy of its use in such areas, remains unestablished.

Dr Marsden’s research will include microbiological techniques in soil nitrogen cycling, stable isotope methods to quantify nitrogen losses and farm system and nitrogen cycle modelling to determine cost-benefit analysis of targeted DMPP applications to case-study intensive dairy farms in both southern and northern hemispheres.