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Understanding the traits and genetic control associated with superior micronutrient deficiency tolerance in Bere barley landraces.

Project Description

Staff in Cell and Molecular Sciences at The James Hutton Institute have a distinguished track record of research in plant and crop science, including genetic and genomic analysis. They have contributed to international consortia conducting whole genome sequencing of important crop plants. This knowledge has enabled the identification of genes underlying key traits and provided the underpinning background knowledge to develop populations and molecular markers that have been deployed in commercial breeding programmes through James Hutton Limited (JHL).
New predictive genomic technologies such as genomic selection (GS) and genome wide association studies (GWAS) are now state-of-the-art in plant breeding. Plant genome sequences has allowed populations of plants densely covered with molecular markers to be analysed using computational methods with traits assigned breeding values so that lines can be selected at a very early stage. This allows fast tracking of fewer numbers of candidate lines for field phenotyping and typically decreases the number of field generations by half. Together with new ‘speed breeding’ techniques that accelerate the growth cycle from seed to seed, has led to a major step change in plant breeding.
The Mylnefield Trust recognise the needed to foster skills in contemporary plant breeding and enable a career path for future leaders in genetics and breeding. They will fund three trainee plant breeders to study for a PhD at The James Hutton Institute starting one per year over the next 3 years.
Landraces of crops hold precious genetic diversity, not present in modern cultivars, and are adapted to diverse and specific environments. Scottish landraces of barley (Bere barley) have markedly greater tolerance to marginal calcareous soils, specifically limited manganese (Mn) availability. Deficiency in essential micronutrients, including Mn, is a significant problem for crop productivity throughout the world, but is especially widespread where calcareous soils are prevalent and can reduce yields by 75%. The studentship will aim to breed Mn efficient cereal genotypes for marginal calcareous soils. This studentship will utilise a genetic and targeted physiological approach in order to obtain detailed molecular knowledge regarding the superior traits in landrace barley.

Successful students will gain experience in modern molecular breeding and field phenotyping methods. They will also gain experience of the commercial world and network with stakeholders in industry to ensure they had the necessary attributes including KE skills for a successful career in genetics and breeding.

Funding Notes

The studentship is funded by the Mylnefield Trust for a maximum 4 year study
Applicants should have a first-class honours degree or equivalent in a related subject or a 2:1 honours degree plus masters or equivalent. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in October 2019. A more detailed plan of the studentship is available to candidates upon application. The funding is available to UK/European student applications, but Worldwide applicants who possess suitable self-funding are also invited to apply.

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