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Finding the right fungal friends: determining how plant defences against against insect herbivores are impacted by different mycorrhizal fungal communities.

School of Sciences

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Dr Adam Frew No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Almost all plants on the planet are attacked by at least one, if not many, insect herbivores. Many of these insects have become pests of crops and they impact crop productivity. There is a critical need to increase agricultural sustainability which is able to maintain crop and pest resistance while also conserving soil ecosystem function. Most of the world’s most important crops associate with a group of fungi called arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. The importance of the ancient relationship between plants and AM fungi to the future of sustainable agriculture is widely recognised. These fungi enhance plant growth, nutrient acquisition and stress resistance, while playing a key role in maintaining soil health.
Research has shown that AM fungi can enhance different plant defence mechanisms associated with resistance and tolerance to herbivory from insects. Yet, evidence suggests that different AM fungi may be more associated with certain functions (e.g. enhanced resistance to stress, better nutrient acquisition) than others. Furthermore, different plant taxa tend to harbour different AM fungal communities. Therefore, differences in AM fungal communities will have strong effects on crop resistance and tolerance to attack from insect herbivores. We have very little understanding of how biodiversity and community structure of AM fungi influence plant defence traits.

This project will investigate how the assembly of AM fungal communities are linked to different plant defence mechanisms in important crop species.

Specific details
The project will involve mainly glasshouse and lab-based research, although some field-based sampling will be necessary. Candidates with a background and skills in entomology, plant science, microbial and molecular ecology are preferred, and applicants with experience in the use of R statistical interface is desired.

Potential applicants interested in this project should contact Dr Adam Frew to discuss in the first instance.

Application details for domestic (Australian/NZ) students can be found:

Application details for international students can be found:

Funding Notes

Domestic Students (Australian residents or citizens; and New Zealand citizens) can apply for a Domestic PhD Stipend Scholarship (around AU$28,092 per annum tax-free), the maximum tenure of this award is three years.

Scholarship round is open, please see website for details, section criteria and application information:

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