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BARIToNE: The effect of the barley pathogen Ramularia collo-cygni on the quality of malt and the potential to control the disease through host resistance

   School of Life Sciences

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  Dr J Russell, Prof Frances Jack, Dr N Havis  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr Frances Jack, Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI), Edinburgh 

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Joanne Russell, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee 

Additional Supervisors – Dr Neil Havis, SRUC, Edinburgh 

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, SWRI, and the James Hutton Institute. 

Across the cereals sector, there is much interest in grain health and the presence of seed borne pathogens, especially in barley for malting. One of the major economic barley diseases in Scotland is Ramularia leaf spot (RLS), caused by the dothidiomycete fungus, Ramularia collo-cygni . This fungus has been shown to reduce grain yield and quality. It also has a seed borne stage in its life cycle. This BARIToNE PhD project builds on previous research by investigating (1) the effect of R. collo-cygni presence in harvested grain on malting and sprit (2) utilising previous genome wide analysis, which identified candidate gene regions associated with field resistance, we will genetically dissect this region using multi-parent populations developed from landraces and an elite cultivar (3) the potential for these crosses to display increased resistance to the pathogen will be validated in controlled condition and field experiments. The project relates strongly to the reduced input theme as RLS control relies on fungicide sprays just before head emergence. To address these three objectives, the project will combine biochemistry, genetics, genomics and field phenotyping in the following experimental approaches:

Biochemical approaches. Micromalting of infected samples to determine malt quality (predicted spirit yield), diastatic power and wort viscosity in grain samples with varying levels of Rcc (including some lines with enhanced tolerance/resistance) . Then alcohol yield, congener profile and flavour profile of spirit produced from that malt. This will provide robust evidence on the impact of the fungus on product quality and also the impact of breeding for resistance on grain quality.

Genetics and genomic approaches. A recent genome wide association analysis has highlighted candidate genes on the barley chromosomes which are associated with disease resistance in field experiments. An analysis will be conducted on a wider panel of genotypes including landrace accessions from a legacy collection, to identify genotypes which carry the candidate genes and develop novel germplasm for validation in controlled and field studies.

 Field disease phenotyping and validation approaches. i) Testing predicted resistance. The levels of resistance in the panel of genotypes analysed in part 2 will be tested in controlled conditions and field experiments to determine levels of resistance to symptom expression. ii) Resistant and susceptible lines will be tested for levels of apoplastic leakage and cuticle thickness to determine their potential influence on disease levels.

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

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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