PhD Studentships

Ahdbs Crop Phds Taken At The 2018 AHDB Phd Conference

Students at the 2018 AHDB Crops PhD conference

PhD Studentships

AHDB is actively involved in raising the profile of agricultural R&D within the young science community. The first suite of PhD projects was funded in 2002. The studentship programme benefits the industry through innovative research and training the next generation of scientists. 

All students attend the annual PhD conference to present their research progress.

PhDs in progress 

Starting in 2019/20

Rohan Richard – Rothamsted Research

Exploiting variation in grain protein to determine environmental effects on processing quality

Gluten proteins play a key role in the processing quality of flour. How environmental factors influence both wheat protein quantity and quality will be the focus of this PhD. The studentship will also develop genetic markers for increased protein stability.

Claire Hoarau – Harper Adams University

Novel approaches to control cabbage stem flea beetle

Following the withdrawal of neonicotinoid seed treatments and emergence of cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) populations with resistance to pyrethroid insecticides, this pest has increased in importance. This project will screen plant extracts and biopesticides for efficacy against CSFB adults and larvae.

Student TBC – Rothamsted Research

RNA interference as an aphid management tool

Several important crop aphid species have developed resistance against some insecticides. Regulatory constraints on the use of pesticides have exacerbated the situation. Used in functional genomics, RNA interference (RNAi) is a reverse genetics tool. Recently, RNAi has shown promise as a novel agent to control agricultural insect pests. This studentship will use RNAi to target key aphid proteins. The work also examine combinations of approaches and optimise delivery.

Starting in 2018/19

Isabel Whitely – Rothamsted Research

Managing concurrent evolution of resistance to fungicides

This project will develop modelling approaches, in close collaboration with field experimentation, to develop guidance for fungicide resistance management programmes where resistance is evolving to multiple modes of action (MOA). At present, guidance is targeted at single MOA and this constrains the effectiveness of resistance management advice. It will focus on septoria tritici but will also improve guidance for other pathosystems.

Emma Chapelhow – University of Newcastle

Predicting crop disease from molecular assessment of the distribution and quantification of soil-borne plant pathogens

This project will investigate molecular tools that can be used to monitor soil-borne plant pathogens. Soils with known disease and management histories will be tested for multiple pathogen targets. DNA extraction methods and qPCR assays will be optimised for different pathogens and data on sensitivity and specificity of pathogen detection and quantification will be obtained. Field assessment of disease incidence at various cropping stages during each season will be used to model relationships between pathogen inoculum distribution and level in soils and the risk of disease development.

Matias Fernandez Huarte – University of Lincoln

High-throughput sequencing to measure changes in soil biology in response to long-term management practices

Biological communities in soil affect nutrient cycling, suppress plant pathogenic organisms and, therefore, contribute to the overall soil health status. Community population dynamics can change in response to the crop rotation cycle and management practices, such as organic amendment, tillage and liming. Soils with known disease and management histories will be sampled. Soil biodiversity will be analysed using high-throughput molecular approaches. Analyses of genes involved in nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus and sulphur cycling or in active suppression of plant pathogens will also be conducted. Bioinformatics analysis of the data will be used to assess the main changes in soil microbiome arising from differences in soil management.

Starting in 2017/18

Alexandria Ansell – Cranfield University

Variable rate application of plant protection products

More precise application of plant protection products (PPPs) could play an important contribution to the profitability and sustainability of the arable sector. Variable rate application of PPPs to cereal crops is technically feasible with off-the-shelf commercial equipment. However, the agronomic and economic rationale for variable rate applications of PPPs is not clear. This project will look at ways to optimise PPP applications and help direct the future of variable rate application technology. 

Jess Hughes  John Innes Centre 

Genetic basis of winter oilseed rape resistance to the cabbage stem flea beetle

Cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) is a major pest of winter oilseed rape (OSR) in the UK. CSFB was managed by neonicotinoid seed treatments but such treatments are no longer authorised for use in OSR. The remaining control method, spraying with pyrethroid insecticides, is also threatened by increasing CSFB resistance. This project aims to identify the mechanisms by which OSR and mustards resist CSFB larvae and germplasm, markers and genes associated with desirable breeding traits.

George Crane – University of Cambridge 

Fostering populations of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi through cover crop choices and soil management

Among other benefits, cover crops can promote beneficial microbial communities, including arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). This project will utilise field-scale trials, as well as glasshouse experiments, to assess the impact of cover crops on the diversity and abundance of AMF. The work will also quantify the effect of increased diversity and abundance of AMF species on crop yield. The impact of common farm practices, such as cultivation, nutrient application and use of herbicides on AMF diversity and abundance will also be investigated.

Starting in 2016/17

Jean-Noel Thauvin  James Hutton Institute     

Barley resistance to rhynchosporium: new sources and closely linked markers 

Rhynchosporium is by far the most damaging and costly disease of spring and winter barley in the UK. Control strategies rely heavily on the application of fungicides. Legal restrictions on chemical classes and decreasing fungicide effectiveness require the introduction and maintenance of effective cultivar resistance to achieve sustainable disease management. Introduction of disease resistance into new cultivars is becoming an increasingly high priority for barley breeders, who require detailed information, including tightly linked genetic markers, on a diverse array of resistance genes to produce durable cultivar resistance. This project aims to provide such information.

Beverley Agesa – Bangor University 

Screening and performance of phosphorus efficient cereal cultivars for future food security

The overall aim of this project is to determine the growth and performance of barley and wheat low phytic acid (lpa) seed mutants for enhanced sustainable phosphorous (P) use efficiency in crop production and human/animal nutrition. Molecular breeding can potentially reduce the need for P storage in the plant and, therefore, also reduce the fertiliser P requirement to meet crop maintenance demand.

Aaron Hoyle – SRUC Photo 58 Aaron HOYLE

Understanding components of specific weight in
barley grains – opportunities for improving grain quality and processing efficiency

Grain of high specific weight is preferred for all end markets as it is an indication of good, bold seed with high starch content for milling and processing, as well as high energy value feed grain. This project will help understanding of (i) how crop variety and growing conditions influence specific weight and (ii) how different grain traits - physical and chemical – influence processing efficiency in grains of different specific weight.        

Starting in 2015/16

Jonathan Cope – James Hutton Institute Photo 43 Jonathan Cope

Introgressing resilience and resource use efficiency traits from Scots bere to elite barley lines

The overall aim of the project is to assess and genetically characterise landrace and bere barley germplasm collections for abiotic and biotic stress tolerance, and to explore the potential of these collections as a resource for improving yield stability and reduced inputs in elite barley.

Joseph Crosby – Harper Adams University (part-time)

Identification of Fusarium langsethiae resistance within UK winter oat breeding lines

Fusarium species can infect cereal crops resulting in the disease, Fusarium Head Blight (FHB), and the contamination of cereal grains with fusarium mycotoxins. The proposed project will aim to identify QTL for resistance of oats to Fusarium langsethiae infection and subsequent contamination with the HT2 and T2.

Emily Forbes – Harper Adams University  Photo 44 Emily Forbes

Utilising the patchy distribution of slugs to optimise targeting of control: Improved sustainability through precision application

This project aims to determine whether it is possible to reduce environmental impacts and the cost-effectiveness of slug control through precision targeting of inputs against patches
of slugs. The output will provide a new scientific basis for rational pest management decisions utilising known slug biology, behaviour and environmental responses.

Clarinda Burrell – SRUC Understanding interactions between

Ramularia collo-cygni and barley leaf physiology to target improvements in host resistance and disease control strategies

Ramularia leaf spot caused by the fungus Ramularia collo-cygni is an important disease of barley crops. This project will investigate the relationships between R. collo-cygni infection, visible symptom expression and leaf photosynthetic metabolism in varieties contrasting in visible disease severity to determine whether the asymptomatic as well as the symptom expressing phases of pathogen infection have damaging effects on photosynthetic metabolism, plant growth and yield.

Starting in 2014/15

Chinthani Karandeni DewageChinthani Karandeni Dewage – University of Hertfordshire

Exploitation of resistance genes from oilseed rape for control of light leaf spot

Light leaf spot, caused by Pyrenopeziza brassicae, is an increasingly damaging disease of oilseed rape (Brassica napus). Good control with fungicides is now difficult to achieve and greater use of cultivars with good resistance against the causal pathogen is essential to manage the disease. This project aims to exploit new information about resistance and genome sequences to improve control of light leaf spot in brassicas.

Summary of reports and completed projects

Effects of spring timings and rates of application of triazole fungicides on plant growth regulatory activity and control of light leaf spot (Pyrenopeziza brassicae) and phoma / canker (Leptosphaeria maculans) of oilseed rape (Brassica napus).  

Integrated control of Fusarium ear blight  

Resistance to spread of stem canker from leaf to stem. Differences between RL winter oilseed rape cultivars  

The effects of an altered glucosinolate profile, on the invertebrates within a Brassica napus crop  

Effect of processing on the nutritional value of oats  

Identification of optimum seedbed preparation for establishment using soil structural visualisation  

Characterisation of Mycosphaerella graminicola isolates with reduced azole sensitivities  

Fusarium langsethiae infection and mycotoxin production in oats  

Influence of Storage and Temperature Treatment on the Nutritional Value of Wheat for Poultry  

Characterising the functional importance of folate polyglutamation in plants  

The impact of nutrition on the gluten composition and processing quality of wheat  

Potential improvement of canopy management in oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) by exploiting advances in root to shoot signalling  

New cyst nematode threats to cereals in the UK  

Effects of geographical location on phoma stem canker and yield of oilseed rape crops in the UK

Spatial/Temporal Modelling of Crop Disease Data Using High-dimensional Regression   

Dissecting the yield components of oats (Avena sativa)   

Understanding and combating the threat posed by rye-grass (Lolium multiflorum) as a weed of arable crops   

Genetic and phenotypic characherisation of yellow rust resistance in the wheat cultivar Alcedo   

Assessing the drought risk of oilseed rape to target future improvements to root systems

Integrated management of cyst nematodes in oilseed rape

Identification and characterisation of eyespot resistance in wheat

Study of Fusarium langsethiae infection in UK cereals

Understanding and predicting alcohol yield from wheat

Understanding and regulating pre-maturity α-amylase activity in wheat grains to maintain high Hagberg Falling Number

Control of Turnip yellows virus: Assessing impact on oilseed rape quality traits and dissecting circulative transmission by aphids

The use of glycerol in diets for broilers

The nutritional value of biofuel co-products for poultry

Exploiting resource use efficiency and resilience traits in ancient wheat species

Malt induced premature yeast flocculation: its origins, detection and impacts upon fermentation

Identification and charactersation of resistance to the take-all fungus in wheat

The identification, prevalence and impacts of viral diseases of UK winter wheat

Wheat straw for biofuel production

Agronomic, economic and environmental analysis of dual-purpose wheat cultivars for bioenergy

Site-specific land management of cereal crops based on proximal soil sensing

The potential for association mapping from historical trait data in wheat and barley

The potential for association mapping from historical trait data in wheat and barley

Identifying and evaluating competitive traits in wheat for sustainable weed management

Identification of Fusarium resistance traits in UK oat varieties

Exploring the genetic and mechanistic basis of resistance to take-all disease in wheat

Quantifying rooting at depth in a wheat doubled haploid population with introgression from wild emmer

Investigating the effect of natural enemies and environmental conditions on soil populations of saddle gall midge (Haplodiplosis marginata)

Soil-borne pathogens of oilseed rape (Brassica napus): assessing their distribution and potential contribution to yield decline

Understanding the genetics of wheat yield to deploy high and stable yielding wheat varieties across UK environments

Using molecular methods to study eyespot disease in wheat

Analysis of the genetic and environmental factors influencing grain quality of milling oats

Molecular characterisation of the Rhynchosporium commune interaction with barley

Current opportunities

Information on current research calls and/or opportunities are available from the AHDB Procurement web page and the AHDB PhD Studentship pages.