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Eastbio Microbe-dependent trait expression in wheat.

   PHD Opportunities

  , Prof Peter Doerner, ,  Monday, December 05, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A recent publication in PNAS (Wagner et al. 2021) demonstrated that heterosis of root biomass and germination in maize is strongly dependent on the below ground microbial environment. Inbred lines performed as well for these traits as their F1 offspring under sterile conditions, but heterosis could be restored by inoculation with a simple community of seven bacterial strains. Wagner et al. observed the same pattern of differences in heterotic effect between seedlings inoculated with autoclaved or live soil slurries in a growth chamber, and for plants grown in fumigated vs. untreated soil in the field.

This project will test if the same phenomenon is present between wheat hybrids and their parents. It will also test for differences in response among a greater range of wheat lines, including contemporary varieties, old lines, and lines newly created from wide crosses to ancestral species (termed synthetics). There will be opportunity also, to work with freely available mapping populations (e.g. MAGIC) for which additional trait and marker data exist.

An advantage of this project is that much of the experimental work can be done under glass or in growth chambers so several experiments can be run per year to support field work, where relevant aspects of soil composition and crop rotation can be studied. This will include sampling of material from other projects on wheat with field trials and different growing systems.

Within SRUC and the University of Edinburgh, this project fits well with our research activities on genetics and plant breeding, the crop rhizosphere and microbiome, agricultural systems and different aspects of the “precrop” effect (biological and/or physical and/or chemical).

The student will learn the skills required for this project including; quantitative genetics - required for trait mapping and to evaluate the merit and methods of integration of results from this project into practical breeding programmes; together with knowledge in soil science; microbiology; and crop physiology. This will result in a well-rounded education with a unique combination of skills giving opportunities for employment in several fields, including plant breeding or research.

If successful, we hope to deliver a glasshouse screening test, either using artificially inoculated soil or live soil slurries compared to sterile soil. Similarly, QTL for response and/or the potential for genomic prediction can be delivered.


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.


Wagner, M.R., et al. 2021. Microbe-dependent heterosis in maize. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(30).

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