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BARIToNE Project D - Strategies for Control of Head disease and associated mycotoxin risk in Spring Barley production and utilisation

   School of Life Sciences

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  Dr E Huitema, Dr N Havis  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr. Julian South, MAGB

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr. Edgar Huitema, University of Dundee

Additional Supervisors – Dr Neil Havis, Dr. Kairsty Topp, Dr. Henry Creissen & Dr. Steve Hoad, Scotland’s Rural College

This project will be based at SRUC, Edinburgh, and the appointed student will registered at the University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

Across the cereals sector, there is renewed interest in grain health and concern about presence of toxic chemicals such as mycotoxins. This concern has been widespread in barley for malting, in wheat destined for milling and feed, and in oats for milling and processing. A project on barley head diseases would attract broad cereal sector interest and would have wide application. 

This BARIToNE PhD project builds on previous and ongoing research by considering how crop management and barley cultivar influence the occurrence of major barley head diseases, including blight and ergot. The project relates strongly to the climate resilience theme, but also considers reduced and more efficient inputs. Experimental approaches will combine pathology, agronomy and physiology along with chemical analytical approaches and methods in the following main strands:

  1. Agronomic management. To provide gap filling in our current knowledge and include field experiments on the impact of changing agronomic systems on ergot survival and proliferation. We know that ergot infection of adjacent grass swards and margins in getting into grain samples and that previous cropping and cultivation can affect fusarium infection. This aspect will be developed within a suite of agronomic management and risk factors to identify future threats to production. This part of the study will also include novel control measures for ergot and fusarium, such as biological control of plant disease which is a growing area of interest in more integrated approaches to crop protection. In addition, the impact of environmental conditions which favour the germination of ergot sclerotia and the expression of toxin production genes will be examined. 
  2. Monitoring the presence of mycotoxins. To understand the presence of soil and trash borne inoculum and ergot sclerotia and their contribution to mycotoxin and alkaloid concentrations. The monitoring of the presence of mycotoxins and alkaloids will be undertaken with wider project collaboration, including methods for their minimisation through the supply chain and subsequent processing. We also consider that any changes in agronomy that control ergot must not be to the detriment of Fusarium derived mycotoxins, of which T2/HT2 are important in barley.

Throughout the research programme, the student will have opportunity to engage with broader strategic research on crop health and improvement.

If you would like to discuss this project in more detail, please contact Dr Neil Havis ([Email Address Removed]) 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 Home students. To be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the UKRI eligibility criteria (found in the Training Grant T&C's here -
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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