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Wheat contra weed: Identifying wheat germplasm for enhanced competition against blackgrass


Faculty of Biological Sciences

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Dr Tom Bennett , Dr Laura Dixon , Dr S Kepinski No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The common agricultural weed blackgrass is an increasing problem in UK agriculture due to the prevalence of herbicide resistance in blackgrass populations. There is therefore a need to move towards more alternative mechanisms of weed management, which will include wheat varieties that are more competitive against blackgrass.

The aim of this project is to identify genetic loci in wheat that increase competitiveness against the blackgrass. We will establish a system to test the competitiveness of wheat against blackgrass under controlled conditions, and to allow us to understand why competitive varieties do better than uncompetitive varieties. We will use this system to screen both elite and diverse wheat varieties to identify promising competitive lines, and to identify ‘extreme’ parental lines for QTL mapping. We use then use an established mapping population derived from these parental lines to map the genetic loci that control competitiveness. Simultaneously, we will test the promising ‘competitive’ lines for competitiveness against blackgrass under outdoor conditions. This project should identify new routes to competitiveness in wheat, and allow us to define the genetic basis of this competitiveness. To date weed suppression is not considered on recommended lists, but this project will provide a quicker tool to assess the competitiveness of new varieties, and allowing for these traits to become part of recommended lists.​

The project will offer the student a highly interdisciplinary training, spanning molecular genetics, plant physiology and eco-physiology, and bioinformatics, and through to agronomy and agricultural practice. The student will be part of the AHDB PhD program, and will attend the annual AHDB PhD conference and associated training events. This project will be run in collaboration with agronomy consultancy firm RSK ADAS, who will contribute their skills and experience in blackgrass management to the project.

Funding Notes

Project is fully-funded by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). The successful candidate will receive a PhD studentship for 4 years, covering fees at UK/EU level and stipend at research council level (£15,009).

Candidates should have/be expecting a 2.1 or above at undergraduate level in a relevant area. If English is not your first language, you will be required to meet our language entry requirements. The PhD is to start in Oct 2020.
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