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Integrated Management of Lettuce Downy Mildew

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Lees
    Dr D Cooke
    Dr Timothy Pettitt
    Prof J Jones
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Are you interested in becoming a Plant Pathologist?

We are offering a unique opportunity to work on various aspects of research into Bremia lactucae, the pathogen responsible for causing downy mildew of lettuce, with the aim of improving disease control for growers.

The studentship will capitalise on the availability of the genome sequence of B. lactucae to develop and use neutral and/or functional molecular markers to examine population diversity in B. lactucae populations in the UK and to link this diversity to phenotypic characteristics including pathogen race, fungicide sensitivity, geographical location, lettuce variety and other important parameters. This work is designed to form the basis of a future lettuce downy mildew national outbreak information service for growers and to contribute to an Integrated Pest Management approach for lettuce downy mildew.

This is an AHDB funded studentship and the recipient will work closely with industry partners to understand the challenges and requirements of the sector.

Why is this project important?

Bremia lactucae is an obligate biotrophic oomycete which causes downy mildew on lettuce, damaging leaf tissues and lettuce heads and reducing yield and quality, particularly in cooler growing environments. Information exists on the epidemiology of the disease and environmental requirements for infection, spore production and transmission. Integrated disease management strategies should ideally include host resistance, fungicides, cultural control and disease forecasting where possible. A robust downy mildew management package is a high priority for the horticultural industry in the UK. Associating molecular markers with B. lactucae phenotypes will allow variability within populations of this pathogen to be monitored, providing a better understanding and informing appropriate, targeted and more sustainable use of control measures by the industry to manage downy mildew.

What will you be doing?

The successful candidate will use sequence information to develop molecular markers suitable for examining diversity in Bremia lactucae populations. You will be responsible for sampling the UK pathogen population and analysing it for a range of phenotypic traits such as ability to overcome lettuce host resistance genes, fungicide sensitivity and optimal environmental parameters in laboratory, glasshouse or field tests as appropriate. The links between genotypic and phenotypic traits will form the basis of an outbreak reporting system to provide useful information to the industry, with whom you will work closely and communicate regularly.

What’s in it for you?

Become an expert in horticultural plant pathology and make a difference to plant health and food production. You will gain a rare blend of skills in molecular and applied plant pathology that is much sought after in both research and the agricultural industry. You will receive training in state-of-the-art techniques and conventional plant pathological skills and a firm understanding of how to conduct science that can deliver applied outcomes and impacts. The laboratory, field and glasshouse facilities of a world leading research institute will be made available. This is a unique opportunity to work with and learn from a highly experienced supervisory team with internationally recognised expertise and to gain invaluable grower knowledge from industry experts.

Our candidate requirements:

Applicants should have a minimum of a first-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree in an appropriate subject, such as biology, agriculture/horticulture. Applicants must be proactive and enthusiastic, willing to engage with a wide range of industry stakeholders and scientists and travel within the UK and internationally as required. A full and valid driving license is highly desirable.

Funding Notes

The PhD student will be registered with the University of St. Andrews and be based primarily at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee. The closing date for the return of applications is 14 June 2019 with an expected start date of October 2019.
This studentship is funded by AHDB Horticulture (UK/EU tuition fees and stipend (£14,777 2018/19 [tax free]) for UK/EU students for 3 years.

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