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Investigating the use of fungal endophytes to induce resistance to honey fungus (Armillaria)

Project Description

An exciting PhD opportunity is available to work on Armillaria root rot (honey fungus), supervised jointly between the University of Bristol and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

Honey fungus (Armillaria), so called for its honey-coloured fruiting bodies that appear in autumn, is a devastating disease for hundreds of species of trees and shrubs. Susceptible host plants range from those important for timber production to orchard and vine fruits and ornamental shrubs. Thus, control of this disease is important in forestry, agriculture and horticulture alike. Infections result in reduced growth of the host, premature wilting of the foliage, lower harvests and eventual death of the plant. The fungus attacks the roots of its host and can spread through the soil and by root-to-root contact. Once a primary infection is established plants around the initially infected host become at risk, with infections being able to spread approximately one metre each year. Indeed, the term “humungous fungus” has been coined for the genus Armillaria as individual colonies have been found to cover an area in excess of 15 hectares.

Controlling the fungus is very difficult. The most effective pesticide to prevent Armillaria root disease, the soil fumigant methyl bromide, is being phased out due to its negative environmental impact, and few alternative measures exist that can prevent or cure infections. Because the fungus persists on dead roots buried in the soil, new plants put into the same area are also vulnerable to attack. Cultural controls required to eradicate the fungus from soils with previous infections, or to limit the impact of present infections, are costly, labour-intensive, and of varying success. Environmentally friendly, cost effective and long-lasting protection against this fungus would be both desirable for gardeners and profitable for commercial growers, yet knowledge of how to achieve this is lacking in the scientific literature.

The aim of this work is to gain a better understanding of the interactions between hosts, endophytes and Armillaria with an overall aim of investigating the potential use of endophytes to induce resistance to honey fungus. With potential candidate fungal endophytes already identified, this a very exciting time to join the team.

This project builds on previous collaborative research on Armillaria between the University of Bristol and the RHS, and the student will benefit from the connection of two vibrant labs with strong graduate communities. The student will gain experience in plant pathology, molecular mycology, functional genomics, image capture, processing and analysis, as well as computer programming for data analysis. The interdisciplinary nature of this research will be supported by a supervisory team with diverse expertise and will equip the student with a range of skills from different areas of science that will be highly valued in a future career in research.

We are seeking talented and motivated candidates with strong communication and organisational skills and experience in plant pathology, plant molecular biology, biochemistry or genetics. Applicants must be in possession of a first or upper second class Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. The student will be primarily based at the University of Bristol but also spend a significant period at the RHS (Wisley, Surrey)

Funding Notes

This PhD is available to start immediately or at the very latest July 2020 and will last for 3 years with a stipend of £15,009 per annum and is open to UK and EU students. Interested applicants should send a covering letter explaining their interest in the project as well as a CV to , along with names and contact details (including emails) for two academic referees.

Further information available at View Website

Deadline for applications is 15th December 2019.

Applications from self-funded students with finances secured are also welcomed to work in similar areas within the group.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 64.60

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

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