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PhD position; Inferring adaptation and genetic gain from crowdsourced crop performance data

Are you a quantitative biologist, ecologist, agronomist or statistician? Are you fascinated with tropical agriculture, plant breeding and genetic resources? …

5 maanden geleden


Droevendaalsesteeg, Wageningen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur


Are you a quantitative biologist, ecologist, agronomist or statistician? Are you fascinated with tropical agriculture, plant breeding and genetic resources? Then read on!

In this exciting project, you will work on the development and implementation of statistical methods for the analysis of crop variety performance and environmental adaptation in large-scale, crowdsourced data from on-farm variety trials. You will play an important role in an international team of breeders, agronomists and statisticians looking for improved ways to measure, understand, and predict the suitability of crop varieties for contrasting environments.

The final aim of this research is to bridge the gap between varietal performance measured on research stations and that experienced by farmers under their own production conditions and to help plant breeders to develop varieties that betters suited for small scale farming systems. The work uses real data sets from different tropical crops grown in a variety of countries and conditions, as well as simulated data from crop growth models parametrised with biological, climatic, and remote sensing information.

This PhD offers a great opportunity for those looking to work on the interface of biology and statistics and provides a solid foundation for pursuing a career in plant breeding, international agriculture, or data science.

The Teams
You will be joining two dynamic and complementary groups working on quantitative aspects of plant sciences and agriculture. The Plant Production Systems group focuses on the study of agricultural production across the world, using diverse methods from production ecology, systems analysis and statistics to identify environmental and productivity constraints, with the aim of designing more sustainable systems. The chair group of Applied Statistics is part of Biometris, a team of mathematicians and statisticians that develops and implements methods for the quantification of processes in biology and the living environment with direct applications in agriculture and nutrition, with a special emphasis on statistical genetics. The mission of Biometris is to bring quantitative methods to life!


We are looking for some who:

  • Holds an MSc degree in Statistics, Ecology, quantitative genetics or another quantitative field.
  • Is excited about and has excellent skills in data analysis and statistics with demonstrable experience in using modern statistical techniques such as (generalised) linear mixed models, copula models or Bayesian methods.
  • Is interested crop ecology, tropical agriculture, plant breeding and the role of genetic diversity in environmental adaptation.
  • Has an interest in simulation modelling as well as excellent programming skills and experience using statistical software such as R.
  • Has good communication skills and proficiency in English (both oral and written).


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 receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.434,- per month rising to € 3.111,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

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 17th 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. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief , known as the 30% ruling. 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, and other issues.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page . A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

Additional information

Do you want more information?
Enthusiastic or curious? Please contact Dr. Joost van Heerwaarden or Dr. Daniela Bustos-Korts: joost.vanheerwaarden@wur.nl, daniela.bustoskorts@wur.nl.

For more information about the procedure, please contact vacaturemeldingen.psg@wur.nl

General information about Applied Mathematics and Statistics group can be found on https://www.wur.nl/en/Research-Results/Research-Institutes/plant-research/biometris.htm
and more information on Plant Production Systems can be found on https://www.wur.nl/nl/Onderzoek-Resultaten/Leerstoelgroepen/Plantenwetenschappen/Plantaardige-Productiesystemen.htm

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.

For this position we plan on starting the interviews in the second week of February. We ask you to take this into account already. We would like to receive your letter and CV before 7th of Februrary 2022.

To apply, please upload the following documents:
  • Letter of motivation
  • Your CV
  • Two references and/or support letters