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Unravelling the global microbiome of crop plants to improve sustainability and food security

School of Life Sciences

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Prof G Bending , Assoc Prof C Quince No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project is available through the MIBTP programme on a competition basis. The successful applicant will join the MIBTP cohort and will take part in all of the training offered by the programme. For further details please visit the MIBTP website -

Plants live in close association with complex communities of microbes which together constitute their ‘microbiome’. The microbiome interacts with the plant in numerous ways; some microbes are beneficial and promote plant growth, while others are pathogens which reduce crop yields. Understanding and harnessing interactions within the microbiome has enormous importance for devising net zero carbon emission sustainable agricultural systems while ensuring food and energy security, and also mitigating the threats posed by climate change and land degradation.

In collaboration with an international team of scientists ( you will use molecular approaches to investigate the composition of crop microbiomes, the factors which shape the assembly of microbiomes, and specific functional traits within microbiomes that impact crop growth and yield. The programme will be part of a major initiative to profile microbiomes from key crops including wheat, maize and rice from agricultural systems from across the planet.

You will use a range of methods including amplicon and metagenome sequencing, and quantitative PCR to profile the structure, abundance and functional characteristics of the microbiome, and key microbial groups with specialized functional traits. There will also be scope to assemble and characterize microbial genomes using metagenomic sequences, to isolate and characterize microbes, and investigate plant-microbe interactions under controlled environment conditions.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Sustainable Agriculture and Food: Plant and Crop Science

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:
• PCR-amplicon sequencing
• Metagenomic sequencing
• Quantitative PCR
• Network analysis
• Multivariate statistical analysis
• Microbial isolation and characterization
• Plant growth trials under controlled environmental conditions


Berendsen RL et al. (2012) The rhizosphere microbiome and plant health. Trends in Plant Science 17:478-486.

Hamonts K, et al. (2018) Field study reveals core plant microbiota and relative importance of their drivers. Environmental Microbiology 20:124-140.
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