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PhD Studentship: Understanding the Impact of Biophysical and Biochemical Composition of Seed Covering Layers on Weed Persistence and Response to Environmental Conditions

London Interdisciplinary Biosciences Consortium - Department of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Egham
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £20,622 per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 23rd October 2023
Closes: 10th January 2024

Feeding the world in a sustainable way is one of the greatest challenges of our century. Global demand for food is rising and by 2050 agricultural crops will have to provide food for ~9 billion people. Weeds are a major issue in agriculture and cause high yield losses, particularly in cereals, which we depend on the most. Fruits and seeds are the main way in which plants reproduce. Their seed/fruit coats represent the interface with the environment and have a huge impact on germination timing and stress resilience. Weed species have evolved coat permeability properties that contribute to their survival, might help them to avoid herbicides and other weeding practices along with unfavourable environmental conditions. Physiologically dormant weed seeds such as Amaranthus spp. and Chenopodium album undergo seasonal cycling in the soil seed bank. The dynamics of their dormancy and longevity traits (biochemical ageing and repair processes) determines seed persistence and responsiveness to environmental cues. It is well known that seed coats (covering layers including testa and endosperm), can differ considerably in their biophysical and biochemical properties (genetics x environment interaction) and are thereby key determinants of dormancy and longevity traits. It is still unknown for weeds if and how the biophysical and biochemical coat properties dynamically change and what underpinning mechanisms link this to weed seed bank persistence. The proposed PhD project builds on the distinct and complementary expertise of the supervisory team, RHUL’s unique seed biophysics platform, and the group's biochemical analytics and imaging expertise. A comprehensive understanding of weed seed germination can lead to new research, skills, knowledge and technology that helps to secure a reliable food production.

Aims and Objectives of the proposed project are to understand the impact of biophysical and biochemical characteristics of "seed coats" of Amaranthaceae weeds on dormancy and longevity, and to comparatively investigate the dynamics of their underpinning mechanisms in response to the environment.

The 4-year industrial CASE (iCASE) studentship is fully funded within the London Interdisciplinary Doctoral Programmer (LIDo) with substantial additional support from the industrial partner Syngenta. The project is a collaboration between Royal Holloway's Seed Science and Technology Group with scientists at Syngenta. Jealott’s Hill International Research Centre is Syngenta´s UK research and development location and is their largest R&D site in the world. In this interdisciplinary PhD project, with a supervisory team consisting of a biomaterial engineer, biochemist, and Researchers at Syngenta Ltd., we will combine the disciplines of plant physiology, plant biomechanics, chemistry and plant molecular sciences. This PhD project sits at the heart of the BBSRC priorities of a future bioeconomy and will provide important & timely transformative and sustainable agricultural solutions to increase crop yields.

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