Project Highlights:

Research into greenhouse gas emission from agriculture from the major emission hotspot region India

Novel trace gas emission measurements of the primary GHGs methane, carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O) to help improve process-based models and emission inventories

Close collaboration with partners from India



Agriculture is the world’s second-largest emitter of damaging greenhouse gases (GHG) after the energy sector. The future growth of the global population will result in additional pressures on the agricultural sector to secure food production whilst aiming to reduce GHG emissions. Anthropogenic methane (CH4) emissions, in particular from rice cultivation, is a prime target for GHG mitigation efforts owing to the very large warming potential of methane.

India is a major global emission hotspot and is thought to have the second largest anthropogenic methane emissions of any country. India is not only home to the world’s largest ruminant population but is also the world’s second largest producer of rice. India is also exposed to significant climate change and climate projections for 2050 for India suggest an increase in the average temperature by 2-4°C which can have dramatic consequence on the food production from India. One of the most fertile regions of India is the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) with more than 225 million hectares used for rice - wheat cropping systems and other crops. Not only do these crops feed India’s growing population but plays also a critical role in the world’s food economy.

Although the importance of rice production in the global methane budget is well recognised, the involved, complex biogeochemical mechanism and the role of environmental and agronomic factors (such as climatic conditions, nitrogen fertiliser-use or field management) are not well understood. As a consequence, process-based models and emission inventories have significant uncertainties limiting the reliability of predictions of future levels of methane and hampering the development appropriate mitigation strategies for agricultural emissions.

In order to advance our understanding of agricultural GHG emissions, we will take advantage of the strong links of the EOS group to partners in India to acquire detailed measurements of the atmosphere-surface GHG exchange. Measurements of multiple trace gases simultaneously and key environmental parameters and the use of agricultural data will provide insights into controlling processes and external factors which will allow evaluating and eventually to advance predictive models used to inspect potential future scenarios.

Figure 1: This image shows the NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) over India, calculated from data collected by NASA’s MODIS space sensor. The NDVI indicates the presence of live vegetation on the Earth surface; the deeper the intensity of green (as observed across North India), the denser the vegetation.


In this project, a novel set of trace gas observations of the primary GHGs methane, carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O) (and carbon monoxide CO) will be acquired to quantify and characterise GHG fluxes. The focus will be on a new agricultural field site in the north Indian city of Chandigarh (capital of Punjab located close to foothills of Himalaya) characterised by intensive rice and wheat production and crop residue burning practises. The EOS group has already established a surface temperature radiometer at this site that complements on-going air quality measurements. The GHG observations will be used to critically evaluate process models and statistical approaches for emissions which will then be used to upscale to regional scale and assessed against methane satellite data from GOSAT and Sentinel-5P. This work will build on the strong links of the EOS group with research organisations, local policy-makers and agricultural non-government organizations in India.


Training and Skills

The students will benefit from a range of training opportunities in key skills related to field work, flux measurement methods and greenhouse gas cycles including visits to partner University of Bremen, summer school (e.g. ICOS summer school) and training provided by the supervisory team. The student will be embedded in the EOS group and LISEO which provides an exciting, cross-disciplininary research environment and where a multitude of training opportunities in transferable skills ranging from data visualization and analysis to presentation skills are available.


Year 1: Test setup at Leicester and training with instrumentation and trace gas flux observations incl visit to University of Bremen and to partner in India. Summer training school.

Year 2: Instrument installation at field site in India. Analysis of full set of trace gas fluxes observations and their day-to-day variations. Evaluation of the relationship between tracers (CO2, CH4, N2O and CO) and evaluation of fluxes against covariant data (met. data, field data…). Presentation at major, international conference.

Year 3: Assessment of process-based emission model against filed data. Application of upscaling methods of emissions to region scale and assessment against regional, inventories and satellite observations. Presentation at major, international conference.


Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

This project will collaborate with two in-country partners; a) Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), an institute of national importance as declared by the Parliament of India and b) Panjab University, India’s top rated university in the 2014 Times Higher Education World University rankings. Both institutes actively engage with the local agricultural community through public outreach and stakeholder engagement events. We will also work in this project with University of Bremen, who have many years of expertise in flux measurements.



Further Details

It is strongly advised that you contact the supervisor Prof. Hartmut Boesch (Hartmut.boesch@le.ac.uk) before applying