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Understanding the mechanistic basis of crop yield reductions in warm winters (PENFIELD_J22DTP)

   Graduate Programme

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  Dr S Penfield  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In the UK and Europe high yielding arable crops are sown in autumn and flower the following spring. During winter they require chilling to promote flowering and also during flower development to promote high fertility. Previously, our research has shown that insufficient chilling during flower development leads to large yield reductions in some growing seasons, but the precise mechanism by which these effects of chilling affect yield remain unclear.

In this project the successful applicant will develop new varieties of winter oilseed rape that are able to respond to higher chilling temperatures, and thus will have more resilient high yields as the climate warms. The project will suit a student interested in the effects of climate change on agriculture, and provides an opportunity to use modern scientific methods to accelerate the breeding of new crop varieties more suited to the environments of 21st century Europe.

Using modern genomic techniques you will discover gene variants that allow high yields in environments with modest chilling, and improve our understanding of the molecular and physiological basis of yield reductions in warm winters. The project will use new technologies for understanding the effects of climate change on crops, such as a field trials with artificial plot warming, and new controlled environment facilities that can mimic real environments at high resolution and simulate warming at specific times of the year. Full training will be provided in plant molecular biology, bioinformatics, field trial design, crop physiology and the application of climate and crop modelling.

The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) is open to UK and international candidates for entry October 2021 and 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 students undertake a three-month professional internship placement (PIPS) during their study. The placement offers exciting and invaluable work 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 programme. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 25th January, Wednesday 26th January and Thursday 27th January 2022.

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply:

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.

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 for each year of the studentship (2021/2 stipend rate: £15,609), and a Research Training Support Grant for each year of the studentship of £5,000 p.a.


Brown JKM, Beeby R, Penfield S. Yield instability of winter oilseed rape modulated by early winter temperature. Sci Rep. 2019 May 6;9(1):6953. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-43461-7.
O'Neill CM, Lu X, Calderwood A, Tudor EH, Robinson P, Wells R, Morris R, Penfield S. Vernalization and Floral Transition in Autumn Drive Winter Annual Life History in Oilseed Rape. Curr Biol. 2019 Dec 16;29(24):4300-4306.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.10.051.
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