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Overcoming drought-induced limitation of legume crop yields by mediating plant hormone signalling

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Dodd
    Prof Paul
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Supervisors: Dr Ian Dodd and Prof Nigel Paul (Lancaster Environment Centre), Prof Peter Hedden (Rothamsted Research) and Dr Steven Adams (Plant Impact).

Delivering a reliable food supply to a growing population demands crop production systems that are robust in the face of increasingly unpredictable climatic conditions such as drought and extreme temperatures. For example, in 2011/12 (a dry year), Brazilian soy yields were down 16% compared with the previous year - a financial loss of US$6.3 billion for the whole country. Plant Impact plc (PI – www.plantimpact.com ) has identified an approach, exploiting advances in the understanding of plant stress signalling, to ameliorate abiotic stress. PI’s ‘Alethea’ technology is a mixture of chemicals that are analogues of compounds that are important in crop physiology and biochemistry and a previous BBSRC CASE studentship dissected the mechanisms by which it improved plant stress tolerance (Wargent et al. 2013). However, further fundamental understanding is needed to deliver new anti-drought technologies, to complement existing PI products that have already substantially increased soy yields.

This 3.5 year scholarship builds on knowledge of drought effects in soybean, where pod number per plant is the main yield determinant. Critical phenological stage(s) for soybean sensitivity to drought will be determined (review of existing literature followed by targeted experiments). Drought treatments of varying severity will be imposed in controlled environments (at Lancaster) at defined crop developmental stages, to measure hydraulic and chemical determinants of pod growth. The significance of crop water and carbon status in affecting phytohormones and mediating pod abortion will be tested, and pods will be sampled for a comprehensive suite of analyses (antioxidant systems, metabolites and phytohormones including gibberellins). In field experiments conducted in Brazil, gibberellin biosynthesis inhibitors (previously demonstrated to increase pod and seed number) will be compared with selected formulations from PI’s chemical research programme.

Further information: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/sci-tech/downloads/phd_230.pdf

Academic requirements: First-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject.

Deadline for applications: 23 September 2016

Interview date: 30 September 2016

Start date: To be negotiated (as soon as possible).

Application process: Please upload a completed application form (download from http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/lec/pg/LEC_Funded_PhD_Application-Form.docx) outlining your background and suitability for this project and a CV at LEC Postgraduate Research Applications, http://www.lec.lancs.ac.uk/postgraduate/pgresearch/apply-online.

You also require two references, please send the reference form (download from http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/lec/pg/LEC_Funded_PhD_Reference_Form.docx) to your two referees and ask them to email it to Andy Harrod ([email protected]), Postgraduate Research (PGR) Co-ordinator, Lancaster Environment Centre by the deadline.

Due to the limited time between the closing date and the interview date, it is essential that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.

Funding Notes

3 years and 6 months studentship (fees and maintenance grant per year (£14,296 2016/17 [tax free]) for those who have been ordinarily resident in the UK throughout the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of an award. EU candidates who have not been ordinarily resident in the UK for the last 3 years are eligible for "tuition fees-only" awards (no maintenance grant). Unfortunately studentships are not available to non-UK/EU applicants.


1. AC Ryan, CN Hewitt, M Possell, C Vickers, A Purnell, PM Mullineaux, WJ Davies, IC Dodd (2014) Isoprene emission protects photosynthesis but reduces plant productivity during drought in transgenic tobacco plants. New Phytologist 201, 205-216.

2. JJ Wargent, DA Pickup, ND Paul, MR Roberts (2013) Reduction of photosynthetic sensitivity in response to abiotic stress in tomato is mediated by a new generation plant activator. BMC Plant Biology 13, 108 .

3. SA Rothwell, IC Dodd (2014) Xylem sap calcium concentrations do not explain liming-induced inhibition of legume gas exchange. Plant and Soil 382, 17-30.

4. EH Colebrook, SG Thomas, AL Phillips, P Hedden (2014) The role of gibberellin signalling in plant responses to abiotic stress. Journal of Experimental Biology 217, 67-75.

How good is research at Lancaster University in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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