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PhD: Winged Bean – a new soybean for the tropics?

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Mayes
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Supervisors: Sean Mayes (PI, Biosciences, UK), John Brameld (Biosciences, UK), Wai Kuan Ho (UNM), Festo Massawe (Biosciences, UNM)

Based in the School of Biosciences, Sutton Bonington Campus, UK (with potential opportunity for field work at our Campus in Semenyih, Malaysia)

Pulses are considered an important plant source of protein which has been relatively under exploited, most of the world product focusing on soya. Winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus L. DC.) is an underexploited tropical leguminous plant but has been identified as a possible crop for the future. It is a relatively rich source of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals and fibre with the protein content in defatted seed meal ranging from 33.43–47.25%. Winged bean is potential good nitrogen-fixer for low-input and self-resilient agricultural systems, having effective symbiotic associations with a broad spectrum of rhizobia strains.

This legume still remains cultivated on a subsistence scale, for a number of reasons, including current plant architecture, with cultivation currently involving vining but also the impact of antinutrient content which reduces nutrient bioavailability. To date UNM/CFF/UoN’s preliminary work on Winged Bean, in collaboration with the winged bean breeder at East-West Seeds (, has developed an initial collection of lines (200+) which could be used as the basis of an association panel and are currently using genotyping-by-sequencing to determine genetic diversity in this species. The current PhD position would take a genome-enabled approach to addressing some of the limiting factors which have so far prevented winged bean being more generally used as a tropical equivalent (and potential replacement, based on reported composition) of soybean. This would be coupled to on-going genetic improvement and selection within this crop, led by UoN/UNM/CFF.

The investigation will seek to
- Improve plant habit – short and bushy habit would permit mechanical harvesting of plants, much as for oil seed rape/field peas
- Reduce antinutritional factors. Screening will allow complementary sources of germplasm to be identified for breeding, as within the germplasm there is variation in a wide range of components. Simple processing techniques which allow antinutritional factors to be inactivated or removed will be identified.

- An EMS mutation population is currently being developed (DTP Impact Fund) and we expect this to become available in 12-18 months.

This will provide a molecular-led approach to the identification of lines with desirable traits and reduced antinutritional factors.

The expected output from the project would be a clearer understanding of the control of these negative traits and the potential for developing a winged bean suitable for tropical production in a way analogous to soya bean.
For further details, please contact Dr Sean Mayes: [Email Address Removed]

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 111.45

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