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Physiological response of quinoa to environmental stress: effects on nutritional profile, plant immunity, pest management and soil carbon content (OP2257)

   Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

  Dr Victor Zevallos  Monday, January 24, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Newcastle United Kingdom Agricultural Sciences Biochemistry Climate Science Food Production Microbiology Plant Biology

About the Project

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) is an Andean crop with numerous beneficial applications in agriculture/food systems, resulting from its excellent nutritional profile, high adaptability to grow on marginal lands (unsuitable for major crops) and tolerance to extreme environmental conditions (high temperatures, drought, and saline soils). These traits facilitate its cultivation around the world [1], helping agri-food systems adapt to the effect of anthropogenic-driven climate change in areas where it is widely grown, and making it attractive for future cultivation in areas where presently is more restricted (eg the UK).

Crop breeding programmes are already aiming to further increase quinoa productivity by modifying agronomic traits (shorter plants, fewer branches, compact seeds and less saponin) [2]. However, balancing yield-driven productivity gains with an understanding of mechanisms of adaptation, natural capital gain and ecosystem service provision is essential to promote the development of an emerging staple crop that delivers for both nutrition and nature. Quinoa’s abundant germplasm facilitates the physiological evaluation of useful traits that benefit 1) biotic/abiotic stress-tolerance, 2) characterisation of novel host-pathogen resistance mechanisms, and 3) integration with regenerative agricultural practices, including minimum/no-till drilling, companion cropping, and integrated pest management strategies. Exploring the potential of quinoa in this way, will contribute to its global expansion and establishment as a nutritious and capital naturing crop, including in the UK.

The proposed project will explore how environmental/biological stresses affect quinoa growth/production, pest/pathogen interactions and soil carbon storage, using glasshouse/ regenerative farming platforms and geophysical/molecular techniques at Newcastle University, and nutritional/immunological profiling of harvested crop material using biochemical/molecular techniques at Northumbria University. This multidisciplinary project will allow a suitable student to gain valuable training experience and key research skills to develop a successful career in an emerging research field, promoting the expansion of resilient/sustainable agri-food systems to meet the dietary requirements of a growing global population and ensuring adaptation to climate change.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the NERC ONE Planet DTP. Each of our studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£15,650) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, etc).
Home and International applicants (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. Following the UKRI announcement regarding their new 30% UKRI international recruitment policy (to take effect from September 2021) both Newcastle University, and Northumbria University, have agreed to pay the international fee difference for all International applicants (inc. EU) who are awarded a DTP studentship. Interviews will take place in February 2022.
How to apply: View Website


1) Bazile D, et al. 2016. The Global Expansion of Quinoa: Trends and Limits. Front Plant Sci. 9;7:622. 2) Jarvis DE, et al. 2017. The genome of Chenopodium quinoa. Nature, 542(7641), 307

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