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BARIToNE Project 05 - Understanding the genetic control of rhizosheath and its role in tolerance to abiotic stress in barley


   School of Life Sciences

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  Dr T George, Dr J Russell, Dr Miroslav Bukan  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Miroslav Bukan, Elsoms Ackermann Barley Ltd

Principal Academic Supervisors - Dr. Tim George, James Hutton Institute (JHI)

Additional Supervisors – Dr. Joanne Russell, James Hutton Institute

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

With global population set to hit nine billion by 2050 and the resources needed to sustain this population diminishing, unsustainable agronomic practices and environmental change have brought us to the point where a revolution in agricultural production is necessary to ensure future agricultural sustainability. A new generation of crops adapted to environmental change is needed and the key to breeding such crops is the identification and utilisation of genetic variation in yield in marginal environments. Of the traits responsible for this yield variation, those associated with roots are perceived to have great potential.

Temperate cereals, produce rhizosheaths of soil that stick to root hairs along main root axes and their lateral branches. Rhizosheath mass depends on both genetic and soil factors and has been associated with improved phosphate and water uptake. Rhizosheath mass has the potential to provide a rapid integrative screen for root hair production and functionality, particularly useful for breeding nutrient- and water-efficient crops that perform well in reduced-input agriculture.

Previous research has revealed that root hairs (length, density, and morphology) and root and microbial exudates play a role in rhizosheath formation. In addition, we have shown that both root hair length and rhizosheath production improve resource acquisition in drought conditions. Understanding the genetic and biophysical bases of rhizosheath mass, and how these interact to influence water and nutrient uptake is now required. Rhizosheath mass has potential as a novel functional trait that can be screened rapidly to determine the genetic and physiological controls of crop tolerance to nutrient and water deficit.  

The project will take advantage of considerable genomic and genetic resources with initial focus on two row spring barley association panel assembled from national and recommended list culitvars, with access to field trials that can be run across many environments in Europe.  

The project aims to understand traits and genes that control rhizosheath mass. Specifically, the candidate will

  1. Undertake association studies of rhizosheath traits (root hair and exudates) to validate and extend our preliminary data on genotypic variation in rhizosheath mass and identify candidate genes. 
  2. Determine the physiological roles of root hair traits and exudates in rhizosheath mass and how these are influenced by environmental conditions.
  3. Test the association of rhizosheath mass with plant performance under nutrient-deficit and drought in both controlled environments and in the field. 
  4. Develop markers for the rhizosheath trait to be tested in a prebreeding and breeding environment.

If you would like to discuss this project in more detail, please contact Tim George ([Email Address Removed],uk)for more information.

How to Apply

Please visit the main BARIToNE programme page for more details


Funding Notes

Studentship will cover a full UKRI stipend (currently £15,609/annum) tuition fees, training and travel budget. Part-time study is an option (please indicate on your application) and we offer enhanced support to individuals with primary care responsibilities or disabilities.
Applications are welcome from all nationalities, however the proportion of international students appointed through the BARIToNE CTP is capped at 30% (see the Training Grant T&C's for more information). Applicants are expected to hold (about to achieve) at least a 2:1 Honours degree (or demonstrable equivalent experience) in a relevant subject (e.g. Biology, Genetics, Plant Sciences, Ecology, Soil Science, Computer Sciences etc.).
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