Postdoc Soil Health in Tropical Agroecosystems (postdoctoral)

Postdoc Soil Health in Tropical Agroecosystems (postdoctoral)

Published Deadline Location
10 Mar 3 Apr Wageningen

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Job description

Do you combine strong expertise in soil health assessment with knowledge of tropical soils and agroecosystems? And do you want to be part of an innovative and exciting collaboration between Wageningen University and CGIAR partners in South America and Africa? Then read on and apply asap!

We seek to strengthen our team with an outstanding postdoctoral researcher with strong expertise in soil health assessment and knowledge of tropical soils and agroecosystems. Understanding and improving soil health across cropping systems and regions in the global south is a key focus for achieving sustainability goals, including food security, food safety, greenhouse gas mitigation and climate adaptation. Soil health is a complex, abstract concept that cannot be measured directly. It requires indicator frameworks and methods that can be used to assess and interpret (changes in) multiple soil functions, like nutrient cycling, water regulation, carbon stabilization, disease and pest control and contaminant mitigation. However, the applicability of such indicators at scale, their interpretation in terms of soil functions, and their adaptation to different cropping systems and contexts remains a challenge. In particular, soil biodiversity and soil organic matter play a fundamental role in many soil processes underpinning soil health. Yet, our ability to assess and interpret (early) indicators of soil biodiversity and soil organic matter dynamics are limited. Finally, the linkages between soil health and other agronomic (e.g., crop yields, fertilizer use efficiency) and environmental goals (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, climate resilience) are often assumed but lack scientific scrutiny.

The successful candidate will support the development of a monitoring framework for the assessment of soil health at scale in tropical perennial (cocoa, coffee) and annual (maize, rice) cropping systems. In addition, the position will focus on the coordination and implementation of strategic research addressing important knowledge gaps related to the development, measurement and interpretation of (novel) soil indicators and the synergies and trade-offs between soil health improvement, and other agronomic and environmental objectives. The position will contribute to the One CGIAR initiative Excellence in Agronomy and is part of a collaboration between Wageningen University and CGIAR partners in South America and Africa. The work will be implemented with different end users and stakeholders in mind, covering the farm level, supply chains and national and international policy levels.

As postdoctoral researcher your responsibilities include:
  1. Contextualize, test and improve a flexible framework with indicators and methods for the assessment of soil health (biological, chemical and physical aspects) across a range of tropical cropping systems.
  2. Coordinate field sampling, laboratory analysis and data processing for soil health assessments in different continents, focusing on field experiments comparing different management practices, including their impacts on yields and greenhouse gas emissions. This may include supervision of MSc students.
  3. Design a benchmarking approach to interpret soil health indicator values for different soil types and crop systems.
  4. Communicate on the framework and research results through peer-reviewed scientific papers and non-scientific publications targeting different stakeholders.
  5. Support project coordination and reporting tasks.
The place of employment is Wageningen. The work requires traveling for coordination and field work in Africa and Latin America for 2-3 months per year.


Wageningen University & Research


  • A PhD in soil science, soil ecology and/or agronomy with a strong soil-related background
  • Experience related to soil health/quality or multifunctionality assessment in agroecosystems.
  • A strong aptitude and proven record in statistical analysis (multivariate, mixed models), preferably in R.
  • Ample experience with field and laboratory assessment of soil properties (biological, chemical and/or physical).
  • A good understanding of agricultural management practices in tropical cropping systems.
  • The ability to develop new ideas and approaches or tools to assess and benchmark soil health indicators and to support decision making.
  • Experience with publishing in high-ranking scientific journals and development of technical and popular publications for non-scientific audiences.
  • Strong coordination and planning skills
  • Excellent communication and writing skills in English (C1 level); additional languages (French, Spanish) are an advantage.
Applicants are encouraged to demonstrate their experience with concrete examples from their work in and outside academia.

Willingness and flexibility to travel to field locations and meetings in Africa and Latin America is a must.

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially 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 compensation / 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. Depending on your experience, we offer a competitive gross salary of between € 2,960,- and € 4,670,- for a full-time working week of 38 hours, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale 10). Initially, we offer you a one-year contract, which will then be extended depending on performance and availability of funding.

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the "Best University" in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.
Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the "30% rule", certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.


Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University & Research
The mission of Wageningen University & Research is "To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life". Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR's Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!

You will work here
The Soil Biology Group blends expertise from the soil, plant and ecological sciences to strengthen groundbreaking research and education in the areas of Fertile Soils; Soils in a Changing Climate; Functional Soil Biodiversity-and Soil Biological Indicators and Land Management.
Our multi-disciplinary team includes expertise in soil organic matter and nutrient dynamics, soil communities and biological processes, plant-soil interactions and feedbacks, trait-based ecology of soil biota, soil biological indicators and biofunctionality of carbon. The Soil Biology Group is supported by four laboratories, including; a soil biology lab, microscopy lab, microbiology lab and molecular ecology lab. We also work in close collaboration with soil chemistry laboratories and with a soil physics lab.

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.


  • Postdoc
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • Doctorate
  • P1181334-1


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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