PhD Studentship: Safeguarding our Daily Bread from Wheat Blast

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Location: John Innes Centre, Norwich

Start Date: 1st October 2018

Supervisor: Dr Brande Wulff

Project description: Throughout history, disease epidemics have been ubiquitous in agriculture. In 1985, a new wheat disease giving rise to white, withered heads empty of grain, appeared in Brazil. Since then, ‘wheat blast’ has spread across South America where in some years it causes 100% yield loss. Last year wheat blast emerged in Bangladesh, threatening the wheat belts of South Asia, home to 300 million undernourished people who consume >100 million tons of wheat per year. The identification of genes conferring resistance to blast and the development of new resistant wheat varieties is essential to counter this threat.

The wild ancestors of domesticated wheat represent a rich source of genetic variation with huge potential for improving disease resistance. Identification and manipulation of genes underpinning this variation will help to sustainably increase yields and secure global food security.

In this PhD project, you will employ state-of-the-art enabling technologies including RenSeq coupled to association genetics, ‘speed breeding’ and novel, high-throughput phenotyping approaches to discover, characterise and clone blast resistance genes in wheat and wild wheat relatives. In collaboration with our industrial partner, Limagrain, you will use marker-assisted selection to transfer the identified resistance genes into elite wheat lines for field testing.

Our overarching long-term objective is to understand the genetic basis of wheat blast immunity in wild wheat and engineer this resistance into cultivated bread wheat.

The project will be jointly supervised by Brande Wulff and Paul Nicholson at the John Innes Centre on the Norwich Research Park, and conducted in close collaboration with Limagrain UK Ltd.

This Industrial CASE project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition on either the 9th, 10th or 11th January 2018.

The Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4 year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website: http://biodtp.norwichresearchpark.ac.uk/the-programme/industrial-case

Person specification: Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

Funding notes: Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,553pa – 2017/8), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements. Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Guidelines/studentship_eligibility.pdf

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South East England