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EASTBIO - Crop variety and microbiome differential response to previous crop legacy

   Postgraduate Training

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

About the Project

Varieties of wheat, barley and oats can all show differential response to previous crops in their subsequent yield. This is likely to be mediated through and reflected in their root microbiome. Such differences affect plant defence responses, nutrient uptake and growth resulting in economic yield differences, i.e. carbon efficiency of crop production. An understanding of these interactions is required therefore to match crop varieties to crop agronomy in a smart approach to agroecological production systems. To do this we will functionally characterise the root and rhizosphere microbiomes of barley and possibly oat varieties (genotypes) that have shown differential responses to previous crops in the field using research trial platforms with specific crop histories such as continuous barley compared with ‘optimised’ rotation, long-term soil amendment treatments and cultivation differences. The project will have three main areas:

1) Focussing primarily on barley, trials using existing genetic diversity, including different cultivars and hybrids (a possible association with (Syngenta) hybrid barley vigour has been identified), will be set up to identify differential yield responses to different pre-crops of barley, oat and a faba bean (set up prior to project commencement). Crop growth assessments will be made to determine any correlative factors. 2)  Rhizosphere microbiome sequencing will be carried out on contrasting crop cultivar-pre-crop pairings to identify corresponding changes. This will identify taxonomic and functional configurations of the microbiome significantly associated to differential responses to previous crops. 3) Outputs of the aforementioned lines of investigations will be combined with state-of-the art resources available for barley, including pangenomic sequences and experimental populations, to identify molecular markers capable of predicting plant’s responsiveness to previous crops. Taken together, this will provide data on the potential of smart cultivar selection for regenerative arable cropping.

On completion of their PhD, the student will have gained new skills encompassing agronomy, rhizosphere biology, plant genetics, sequencing data analysis and multivariate statistics. The student will be based at the James Hutton Institute, registered at the University of Dundee and will interact with the newly established International Barley Hub (IBH, The student will profit from the interactions with a diverse and multidisciplinary scientific community, including other PhD students from EASTBIO and other programmes, and will use state-of-the-art facilities.

 How to apply

To apply for an EASTBIO PhD studentship How to apply | eastbio ( follow the instructions below:

Check FindaPhD: PhD Programmes, Research Projects & Studentships in the UK & Europe ( for our available projects and contact potential supervisors before you apply.

After you have discussed the projects of interest to you with the project supervisors, download and complete our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey EASTBIO DTP Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Form 2022 ( then download and complete the EASTBIO Application Form and submit the application form plus your academic transcripts to [Email Address Removed].

Download and send the EASTBIO Reference Form to your two academic/ professional referees, and ask them to submit these directly to [Email Address Removed] (Link to the form can be found here: How to apply | eastbio (  by 5th December 2022.

Funding Notes

EASTBIO studentships include a UKRI doctoral stipend (estimated at £17,668), plus a training grant of £5,000 per annum (year 1-3; £1,500 year 4) and a travel/conference grant of £230 per annum (unspent sums rolled in the following year). Note that although studentships cover UK-level tuition fees only, EASTBIO partner institutions are committed to support international fees. EASTBIO does not provide funding to cover visa and associated healthcare surcharges for international students. For full eligibility criteria, please refer to the UKRI guidance and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions


Escudero-Martinez C, Coulter M, Alegria Terrazas R, Foito A, Kapadia R, Pietrangelo L, ... & Bulgarelli D, 2022. Identifying plant genes shaping microbiota composition in the barley rhizosphere. Nature communications, 13(1), 1-14.
Newton AC, Hawes C, Hackett CA, 2021. Adaptation of winter barley cultivars to inversion and non-inversion tillage for yield and rhynchosporium symptoms. Agronomy 11, 30.
Holden N, Marshall J, Pugh L, Newton AC, 2020. The impact of agricultural management strategies on crop microbiomes. The Dundee Conference: Crop Protection in Northern Britain 2020, Dundee, 25-26 February 2020, pp33-38
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