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Genetic Analysis of Complex Phenotypes in Autotetraploid Potato

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 12, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Cultivated potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) have become the 3rd most important crop in the world and therefore play an important role in addressing world food security. Traditional potato breeding has focused on phenotypic rather than genotypic selection to improve complex agronomic traits such as yield and disease resistance. Development of new varieties with improved characteristics is a lengthy process that usually spans 10-15 years, creating an urgent need to develop novel statistical and/or methodological and experimental tools for genetic analysis of complex traits and hence varietal improvement in potato. With national and international external collaborators, we are working with a diverse germplasm collection, including 300 tetraploid varieties, and collecting phenotype data of complex quantitative traits using advanced high-throughput imaging techniques in the field.
This project provides diverse opportunities to contribute to world food security in one or more of the following topic areas:
1) Development of novel statistical methods and computational tools for mapping Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) in autotetraploid species such as potato through linkage analysis or Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) approaches.
2) Characterising the response of potato to an organic farming system at phenotypic, genotypic (variety) and transcriptomic levels, which will facilitate omics-informed breeding of robust varieties adapted to lower input agricultural systems.
3) Unravelling the causes of tuber greening in potato, including its genetic basis as well as the role of post-harvest handling and storage factors. This will be a key step towards creating new low-greening varieties, and thus cutting serious losses in the supply chain, reducing food waste and ensuring product safety.
4) Molecular cytogenetic analysis of meiotic recombination in potato, building on methods we have developed to track meiotic chromosome behaviour in this important crop species using fluorescence in situ hybridization and immunolocalisation techniques. This work will study the mechanisms through which the potato chromosomes pair and generate new variation through the formation of genetic crossovers and therein inform strategies for faster crop improvement.

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding as a MIBTP 2020 PhD project. MIBTP is a BBSRC funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) between the University of Warwick, the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester, Aston University and Harper Adams University. Please visit the website for full eligibility and funding details: View Website


1). Chen J, Zhang F, Wang L, Leach L and Luo ZW (2018) Orthogonal contrast based models for quantitative genetic analysis in autotetraploid species. New Phytol. doi.org/10.1111/nph.15284.
2) Tanios S, Eyles A, Tegg R, and Wilson C (2018) Potato Tuber Greening: a Review of Predisposing Factors, Management and Future Challenges. American Journal of Potato Research 95:248–257
3) Gebhardt C (2013) Bridging the gap between genome analysis and precision breeding in potato. Trends in Genetics 29 (4): 248-256.
4. Prashar A et al. (2013) Infra-red thermography for high throughput field phenotyping in Solanum tuberosum. PLoS ONE 8 (6):e65816

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.80

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

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