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Develop Biological Control Methods for Devastating Panama Disease of Banana

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Fuquan Liu
    Dr P Williams
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The Panama Disease of banana is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc), threatening global production of banana. This studentship will be a partnership between the industry body Skyeast and Queen’s University Belfast to develop biological control methods to mitigate Panama Disease. The project will screen and enrich soil bacteria, which can limit the growth and pathogenesis of Foc and study the involved biochemical mechanisms. Through collaboration, the project will study interaction of the bacteria with soil components in the banana field.

The objectives of the project include:

Enrich chitinolytic microbiota in tropic soil: Into banana field and lab culturing system, chitin will be supplemented to encourage proliferation of chitinolytic microbials. Effectiveness of the enrichment will be assessed by monitoring chitinolytic activity along the process.

Monitor microbiota dynamics by rDNA phylogenetic analysis, isolate enriched bacteria and characterize their chitinolytic activity. rDNA interval will be amplified from the soil samples along the enrichment process and subjected to next generation sequencing to track the species got enriched by treatment of chitin. Following this, bacteria will be cultured on media. Bacterial clones will be screened for the target rDNAs. Matching bacteria will be amplified and subjected to chitinolytic activity measurement to find the strains with highest chitin degradation activities.

Characterize anti- Foc activity of the isolated microbials. Foc will be cultured before inoculating single and combined bacterial strains isolated in above objective. Growth of Foc will be quantified using standard protocols.
Interaction of the isolates with biochar products produced by the industrial partner. Each promising anti-Foc bacterium will be tested for their interaction with the East Sky biochar. Soil supplemented with different levels of the biochar will be inoculated by the isolates and the resulted mix will be then inoculated with Foc hyphea. After incubation, the abundance of the bacterium and the Foc will be quantified through culture-based measurements.

Test anti-Foc activity in the field. The effective combination of the bacterium and biochar identified in the lab will be applied to banana field in the presence of the Panama Disease to test effectiveness.

Start Date: 1 October 2020
Duration: 3 years

This project will be supervised by Dr Fuquan Liu and Dr Paul Williams of Queen’s University School of Biological Sciences. The industrial supervisor is to be Mr Maxim Balakarev of Sky East UK Ltd.

Skills required by applicants:

Scientific knowledge and practical experience in microbiology, biochemistry and molecular biology.
Willingness to make overseas travel for up to 3 months for fieldwork, under supervision of the industrial partner on the project.

Funding Notes

The studentship will be funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE) and Sky East UK (industrial partner). The studentship is subject to the signing of a contract between Queen’s University Belfast and Sky East UK Ltd.

Only UK/EU students are eligible to apply. Please read the full information on eligibility criteria:

Not all applicants may be eligible to receive a full studentship - please note the Residency and Citizenship requirements in the document linked to above.

How good is research at Queen’s University Belfast in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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