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Increasing yields of legume crops in drought-stressed environments

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  • Full or part time
    Prof I Dodd
    Prof N Paul
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Supervisors: Dr Ian Dodd and Prof Nigel Paul (Lancaster Environment Centre), Prof Peter Hedden (Rothamsted Research) and Dr Steven Adams (Plant Impact).

Delivering a reliable food supply to a growing population demands crop production systems that are robust in the face of increasingly unpredictable climatic conditions such as drought and extreme temperatures. For example, in 2011/12 (a dry year), Brazilian soybean yields were down 16% compared with the previous year - a financial loss of US$6.3 billion for the whole country. This has global consequences as Brazil is a leading exporter of soybean meal, which is imported by European countries (including the UK) who are not self-sufficient in soybean production.

You would work closely with Plant Impact plc (PI – ), an expanding crop enhancement company with global outreach, headquartered at Rothamsted’s Harpenden campus, but with offices in USA, Brazil and Argentina. PI seeks to further our fundamental understanding of plant stress responses to deliver new anti-drought technologies, to complement existing PI products that have already substantially increased soybean yields. As an example of this approach, a previous BBSRC CASE studentship dissected the mechanisms by which PI’s ‘Alethea’ technology improves plant stress tolerance (Wargent et al. 2013).

This research programme builds on knowledge of drought effects in soybean, where pod number per plant is the main yield determinant. Critical phenological stage(s) for soybean sensitivity to drought will be determined. Drought treatments of varying severity will be imposed in controlled environments (at Lancaster) at defined crop developmental stages, to measure hydraulic and chemical determinants of pod growth. The significance of crop water and carbon status in affecting phytohormones and mediating pod abortion will be tested, and pods will be sampled for a comprehensive suite of analyses (antioxidant systems, metabolites and phytohormones). In field experiments conducted in Brazil, compounds of interest (identified from our controlled environment drought stress experiments) will be evaluated for efficacy and compared with commercially available anti-stress compounds.

Further information:

Academic requirements: First-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject.

Deadline for applications: 14 December 2016

Interview date: TBC

Start date: Ideally January 2017

Application process: Please upload a completed application form (download from outlining your background and suitability for this project and a CV at LEC Postgraduate Research Applications,

You also require two references, please send the reference form (download from to your two referees and ask them to email it to Andy Harrod ([Email Address Removed]), Postgraduate Research (PGR) Co-ordinator, Lancaster Environment Centre by the deadline.

Due to the limited time between the closing date and the interview date, it is essential that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.

Funding Notes

3 years and 6 months studentship (fees and maintenance grant per year (£14,296 2016/17 [tax free]) for those who have been ordinarily resident in the UK throughout the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of an award. EU candidates who have not been ordinarily resident in the UK for the last 3 years are eligible for "tuition fees-only" awards (no maintenance grant). Unfortunately studentships are not available to non-UK/EU applicants.


1. AC Ryan, CN Hewitt, M Possell, C Vickers, A Purnell, PM Mullineaux, WJ Davies, IC Dodd (2014) Isoprene emission protects photosynthesis but reduces plant productivity during drought in transgenic tobacco plants. New Phytologist 201, 205-216.

2. JJ Wargent, DA Pickup, ND Paul, MR Roberts (2013) Reduction of photosynthetic sensitivity in response to abiotic stress in tomato is mediated by a new generation plant activator. BMC Plant Biology 13, 108 .

3. SA Rothwell, IC Dodd (2014) Xylem sap calcium concentrations do not explain liming-induced inhibition of legume gas exchange. Plant and Soil 382, 17-30.

4. EH Colebrook, SG Thomas, AL Phillips, P Hedden (2014) The role of gibberellin signalling in plant responses to abiotic stress. Journal of Experimental Biology 217, 67-75.

How good is research at Lancaster University in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.90

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

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