Understanding the mechanisms of flea beetle resistance in white mustard (WELLS_J24CASE)

   Graduate Programme

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  Dr R Wells  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB; Psylliodes chrysocephalus) is a major insect pest of oilseed rape (OSR) crops in Europe. Adult beetles feed on the emerging shoot often resulting in crop failure. Following establishment, the larvae burrow into petioles before migration to the main stem, often causing growth arrest, plant death and considerable impact on yield. Withdrawal of neonicotinoid seed treatments has resulted in a lack of effective pest control, serious crop losses and subsequently, a 50% reduction in UK cropping area since 2013, threatening the viability of OSR as a crop. New strategies are urgently required for CSFB control and breeding for feeding preference, resistance and tolerance are key targets for industry.  

Working with plant breeding company Limagrain, we have identified variation in CSFB feeding in a relative of OSR, Sinapis alba (white mustard). Within this project, the student will build upon our phenotyping methodologies, populations and analysis pipelines to identify the genetic basis of this feeding resistance. Using a combination of quantitative trait locus mapping, bulked segregant analysis (BSA, QTL-seq) and fine mapping they will identify regions of the genome associated with beetle feeding. To explore the mechanisms underlying plant-beetle interactions the student will use transcriptomic experiments to identify key genes in the plant response to beetle feeding. These combined data will be used to prioritise candidate genes controlling resistance for potential future downstream studies including candidate gene confirmation via TILLING or gene editing. 

This project will be suitable for someone with a background in plant biology or entomology and an interest in crops, plant genetics, breeding and food security. You will be working with CSFB and Brassica experts at the John Innes Centre and commercial partner Limagrain, the worlds 4th largest seed company, including secondment to their research site in Mondonville, France.

The Norwich Research Park (NRP) Biosciences Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) is offering fully-funded studentships for October 2024 entry. The programme offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP CASE students undertake a three to 18-month placement with the non-academic partner during their study. The placement offers experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. 

 This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 23, 24 or 25 January 2024.  

 Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply: https://biodtp.norwichresearchpark.ac.uk/ 

 Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. 

Agriculture (1) Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend to cover living expenses (2023/4 stipend rate: £18,622), and a Research Training Support Grant of £5,000pa for each year of the studentship.


Ortega-Ramos, P. A., Coston, D. J., Seimandi-Corda, G., Mauchline, A. L., & Cook, S. M. (2022). Integrated pest management strategies for cabbage stem flea beetle (Psylliodes chrysocephala) in oilseed rape. GCB Bioenergy, 14, 267–286. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcbb.12918
Jordan, A., Broad, G.R., Stigenberg, J., Hughes, J., Stone, J., Bedford, I., Penfield, S. and Wells, R. (2020), The potential of the solitary parasitoid Microctonus brassicae for the biological control of the adult cabbage stem flea beetle, Psylliodes chrysocephala. Entomol Exp Appl, 168: 360-370. https://doi.org/10.1111/eea.12910
Tudor, E. H., Jones, D. M., He, Z., Bancroft, I., Trick, M., Wells, R., Irwin, J. A.and Dean, C. (2020) QTL-seq identifies BnaFT.A02 and BnaFLC.A02 as candidates for variation in vernalization requirement and response in winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus). Plant Biotechnol. J., https://doi.org/10.1111/pbi.13421
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