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BARIToNE: Producing more with less: adapting high-yielding barley varieties to low-input agriculture


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  Dr T Valentine, Prof Katherine Smart, Prof Adrian Newton, Dr D Bulgarelli  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Prof Katherine Smart, DIAGEO, Edinburgh 

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Tracy Valentine, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee 

Additional Supervisors – Prof Adrian Newton, the James Hutton Institute, Dundee;   

Dr Davide Bulgarelli, University of Dundee, Dundee 

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will register at University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution. 

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Dundee, DIAGEO, and the James Hutton Institute

Agriculture is under enormous pressure to increase crop yield and quality for food, feed and other products, while reducing its’ carbon footprint. The James Hutton Institute and University of Dundee offer a 4-year fully funded PhD studentship to determine barley traits adapted to sustainable crop production. This research project will be conducted in partnership with Diageo and will offer the opportunity to undertake an extra industrially relevant qualification, alongside valuable industrial experience during a hosted placement within a Technical Division of Diageo. Barley is a critical crop for the brewing and distilling industry where Diageo is a leading player in the food & drinks sector. Barley is also an important component of animal feed. 

While high-yielding varieties selected to maximise their responses to non-renewable inputs, intense soil management and monoculture have guaranteed profitable yields over the past 60 years, it is now clear that their environmental impact will be unsustainable in 21st century agriculture. Conceptually novel varieties, tailored to the so called low-carbon agronomy are therefore needed to ensure global food security. Chief in achieving this ambitious objective will be identifying genetically determined traits, underpinning barley’s adaptation to the soil environment. We hypothesis that root traits (e.g. architecture, hairs & exudates) are associated with adaptation to low carbon systems (e.g.no-tillage) and plants’ responses are integrally linked in a feedback loop to soil characteristics (e.g. microbiota) and soil resources (e.g. nitrogen, soil carbon)

Research will start with literature reviews (incl. meta-analysis), to extract barley genotypes and germplasm with differential responses to tillage in different soils, potential root traits of interest, soil impacts (inc. soil history, environment/climate etc.), and methodologies for rapid screens (Obj1). Rapid variety screens will calibrate traits against key soil physical and health traits (e.g. structure, sand/loam composition, nutrient levels) using traditional and imaging technologies (Obj2). These will be followed by plot field trials under differential tillage conditions (Obj3). While, this project will focus on plant traits, soil health characteristics and soil structure will be investigated (e.g. via the Soil Health Card system, water, soil strength & structure, C & N ). Genetic indicators of traits and effects on soil microbiome will be achieved through comparative genomics, metagenomic and transcriptomics profiles of adapted lines and rhizosphere where appropriate (Obj4). 

The outcome will be identification of barley traits associated with soil tillage adaptation and their impact on productivity and soil health under low carbon production agronomy which will be valuable for barley breeding and agronomic advice. 

How to Apply

Please visit the main BARIToNE programme page for more details


Funding Notes

If you are successful, you will receive a full UKRI stipend (currently £17,668) also covering tuition fees, training, and travel budget. Funding will be available to any successfully appointed International students to help defray costs of VISA and IHS charge. We also offer enhanced support to individuals with primary care responsibilities or disabilities.
UKRI-funded studentships are open to students worldwide. The proportion of international students appointed through the CTP is capped at 30%. Students must meet the eligibility criteria as outlined in the UKRI T&Cs (https://www.ukri.org/publications/terms-and-conditions-for-training-funding) (see TGC 5.2).
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