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POSITIVE - Evaluating Plant pOlyphenol Effects on SoIl funcTional dIVErsity

Postgraduate Training

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Dr T Valentine , Dr P Iannetta , Dr A Fiore No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Background: Crop breeding has changed the nutritional, mineral and non-nutritional composition of crop plants. Non-nutritionals include metabolites such as polyphenols. Non-nutritionals have historically also been considered as ‘anti-nutritionals’, and this reflects their effect upon animal health when fed as major component in diets i.e. which comprise few other plant sources. Polyphenols have also been implicated in the regulation of soil processes, including functional diversity of soil microbes and soil microfauna, soil carbon storage and mineralisation both in a negative and positive way. There may also be other downstream ecological consequences such as changes soil structural stability, root growth and plant-microbe interactions, including those between crops and pathogens or symbionts. Since polyphenols encapsulates a large class of molecules these processes are likely to be functional type dependent, and thus the quality of polyphenols within varieties may be important in these processes. The choice of varieties within crop rotations therefore not only has implications for animal health when plant are used as feed, but also for soil ecological functioning. Thus, it is particularly surprising therefore that legumes, as ecologically important crops, which may be defined as a “corner stone” species of sustainable food and feed-systems, are having attributes such as polyphenols being bred-out to satisfy mainly the animal-feed industries. In addition, legumes are often included in cover crop/grass ley mixtures which are either directly or indirectly used for animal feed or returned to the soil with the aim of improving soil function, with unknown impacts of polyphenol content.
Aims/Objectives: The aim of this project is therefore to determine the ecological roles of polyphenolic non-nutritionals of legumes in soil function and assess the potential for end uses of the polyphenols found within a value-chain context to support agricultural diversification. The initial project objectives are: Ob.1, chemical characterisation of the quantity and quality of polyphenols in a range of legume species; Ob.2, functional characterisation of the polyphenols for likely environmental impact in soil and other potential uses of material in value-chain (e.g cosmetics/biorefining/active ingredients for food industry). Ob3. Establish environmental/management impact on polyphenol production. Ob4, Ecological function assessment of amendments to soil including effects on soil structure, mineralization rates, and downstream ecological function. The first two objectives will account for the initial 12 to 18 months of the project

Funding Notes

The studentship is funded under the James Hutton Institute/University Joint PhD programme, in this case with the Abertay University for a period of 4 years. Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent).Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in Jan/Feb 2021. A more detailed plan of the studentship is available to candidates upon application. Funding is available for UK applications only. The James Hutton Institute is an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees and students
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