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Eastbio Diversity, genomic characterisation and simulation of breeding potential for a new food crop for Scotland/UK

   PHD Opportunities

About the Project

UK food crops need to be diversified in the face of climate change and high energy prices. We need crops that are not only sustainable for cultivation, but also have high nutritional values for both humans and livestock. An example of a crop that meets all of this requirement is tuber bearing leguminous Apios americana (Neacsu et al., 2021). Although Native Americans once used this species as a staple food source, only limited efforts have been made to mainstream it. There have been few reports of successful Apios cultivation in Asia. Despite its potential, little effort has been put into introducing this species to the UK.

Apios americana occurs in nature as diploids (2n=2x=22) and triploids (n=11, 3x=33) (Reynolds et al. 1990). Surprisingly, the degree of ploidy differs depending on where the samples were collected. Since these accessions are to some extent self-incompatible, there are two methods of propagation: seeds and tubers. Diploids, like potatoes can reproduce both asexually and by seed. Triploids, on the other hand, can be propagated mainly as tubers. There are major gaps in our knowledge of how different Apios accessions adapt and behave in the UK climate. Answering these questions is key to the successful introduction of this species as a future food crop in the UK.

Here we are developing a PhD project for genetic, genomic and potential breeding characterization of different Apios accessions. This will utilise a broad range of expertise at SRUC and University of Aberdeen. The project objectives are as follows:

1: Diversity characterisation of Apios accessions. Germplasm is procured through genebank and native regions. At SRUC, perennial plant populations will be maintained and genotyped, with the data used for understanding diversity and adaptation. The ploidy level of these accessions will be assessed in order to identify species barriers in crossings and establish whether polyploidy resulted in increased adaptability.

2: Simulation breeding technique for Apios americana. Simulating breeding methods will be used to find the best breeding technique for Apios cultivation in the UK climate based on genetic and diversity analyses.

These objectives are designed to (1) provide comprehensive PhD training in the application of ecology, genetics to have a direct impact on the mainstreaming production of Apios, (2) create a breeding platform for Apios, and (3) foster creativity and innovation in the development of future food crops for UK.

Linked to this project is another project that will study biochemical, metabolomic, and agronomic profiles of the Apios americana; both projects aim to establish Apios A. americana as a (future) crop in Scotland/UK, contributing to food security, diet, and biodiversity.


Application instructions can be found on the EASTBIO website-

1)     Download and complete the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey.

2)     Download and complete the EASTBIO Application Form.

3)     Submit both to SRUC, .

A complete application must include the following documents:

  • Completed EASTBIO application form
  • 2 References (to be completed on the EASTBIO Reference Form, also found on the EASTBIO website)
  • Academic Qualifications
  • English Language Qualification (if applicable)

Unfortunately due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications. Please make sure your application is complete by Monday 5th December 2022.

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership.
This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend at UKRI standard rate and UK level tuition fees.


Reynolds, B. D., Blackmon, W. J., Wickremesinhe, E., Wells, M. H., & Constantin, R. J. (1990). Domestication of Apios americana. In Advances in new crops. Proceedings of the first national symposium'New crops: research, development, economics', Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, 23-26 October 1988. (pp. 436-442). Timber Press.
Neacsu, M., Vaughan, N. J., Perri, V., Duncan, G. J., Walker, R., Coleman, M., & Russell, W. R. (2021). Nutritional and chemical profiling of UK-grown potato bean (Apios americana Medik) reveal its potential for diet biodiversification and revalorisation. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 98.

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