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Sustainable wine production through biological control of diseases.

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Sciences.

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,609 per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 25th October 2021
Closes: 6th December 2021
Reference: 4291

Between 10-20% of crops are lost to decay after harvest, during storage or transport. One important culprit is the grey mould fungus, Botrytis cinerea, which causes decay of fresh fruits and vegetables. Economic losses by grey mould are over £7.3 billion worldwide.    

Preventing decay usually means application of fungicides, but growing concern of health risks and environmental impacts mean that we are now searching for alternative ways of reducing losses. That means using alternatives like beneficial bacteria and companion plants that can act as biological controls of disease. At the same time, climate change is affecting what crops we can grow, and also how well biological controls will work. As the UK warms, wine production a growing, and vineyards are interested in sustainable, organic production. UK wine production has quadrupled since the early 2000s. Working with our partner Vinescapes, we will evaluate biological controls for grey mould at sites in the UK and France, and study how vineyard management and climate change could influence their effectiveness. Our goal is to help winemakers reduce their losses to grey mould, now and in the future.  

Firstly, we will conduct laboratory experiments on the efficacy of commercially available biocontrols, like Bacillus bacteria and Trichoderma fungi. We will do this under different temperature and moisture conditions, so we know how the local climate in the vineyard, and potential future climate change, will affect control. 

Second, we will conduct further experiments to test whether grey mould and biocontrols can adapt to increasing temperatures and changing climates, to improve our models. 

Third, we will test whether certain companion plants, like lavender and Artemisia, are able to activate plant defences against grey mould, in the laboratory and also by experiments in vineyards in the UK and France. We will also set up temperature and humidity sensors within vineyards, to monitor how the microclimate within the canopy changes over time. 

Finally, we will use our new findings to create mathematical models of grey mould risk and biological control efficacy under different climate scenarios.   

Eligibility 

To be eligible for a fully-funded studentship, you must meet both the academic and residence criteria. 

A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover 

  • a stipend* at the standard Research Council UK rate; currently £15,609 per annum for 2022-23
    •    research and training costs 
    •    tuition fees (at the standard Research Councils UK rate) 
    •    additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship 

Please refer to the regulations or Annex 1 of the Research Council Training Grant Guide to confirm that you meet the residence criteria for a fully-funded studentship.  Any further queries in relation to residency must be directed to the institution that you are applying to. 

* An enhanced stipend is available for students with a recognised veterinary degree qualification (£24,090 per annum for 2022-2023). There may also be enhanced stipends associated with projects that have a CASE partner (CASE projects are highlighted as *CASE in the project lists). 

The award: 

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP). 

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