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Preparing for Fusarium Wilt of Banana in Colombia (Biosciences) - PhD (Funded)

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,009 per year
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 9th May 2019
Closes: 28th June 2019
Reference: 3542

Fusarium wilt or Panama Disease, caused by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, poses a potentially catastrophic threat to commercial banana production in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) due to the emergence of Tropical Race 4 (TR4) which has high virulence against the exported cultivar Cavendish. Efforts are underway globally to reduce disease dispersal and impact, via tissue culture variant selection, genetic modification, biosecurity measures, biological control and integrated pest management. While such measures offer hope, they must be commercially, economically and socially appropriate if they are to succeed.

This PhD project comprises an interdisciplinary analysis of the potential impact of TR4 arrival in Colombia and appropriate measures for its control. The project builds on ongoing work at the University of Exeter, in collaboration with UK and overseas collaborators. The project will have three components. We will investigate the influence of soil microbes on suppression of TR4 in pot trials and in the field. R

esearch has shown that organic amendments like manure and biocontrol micro-organisms can enhance soil health and suppress TR4. The soil microbe community will be experimentally manipulated using additions of organic matter and available biocontrols. The effect of these amendments on infection will be tested on commercial Cavendish varieties, and the soil community monitored using DNA sequencing. Secondly, we will work in Colombia to establish larger field trials of organic soil amendments and biocontrols, to quantify responses of the soil microbiome and important organisms such as mycorrhizal fungi. Thirdly, we will conduct modelling studies in collaboration with commercial partners in the UK and Colombia, to determine the potential social and economic impact of TR4 and the costs of mitigation strategies. Specifically, we will estimate the availability of organic soil amendments, the financial costs of their application, and their effects on soil fertility and banana yield in the absence and presence of TR4. We will model possible scenarios for the arrival and spread of TR4 in Colombia, and estimate how different management responses would affect farmers financially. The models will help us to understand how TR4 could alter land use and agriculture in the region.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £15,009 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.

The collaboration with the named project partner is subject to contract. Please note full details of the project partner’s contribution and involvement with the project is still to be confirmed and may change during the course of contract negotiations. Full details will be confirmed at offer stage.

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