Fully Funded Studentship Healthier crops with less fertilizer (RIDOUT_J14DTP)

John Innes Centre – School of Biological Sciences (UEA)

29 November 2013. Available from 1 October 2014.

Dr Chris Ridout

The Project:

There is an increasing need to develop crops that have improved disease resistance to reduce dependence on pesticides and benefit the environment. In addition, as natural resources become scarcer, there is a need to develop crops with reduced dependence on inorganic fertilizers such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus. Many plant varieties, including barley and other cereals, form symbiotic mycorrhizal associations with soil fungi that enable nutrients including P and N to be assimilated.

Breeding efforts are, however, targeted to deploy resistance genes that protect against harmful diseases. The trade-off between selection for resistance and mycorrhization is largely unknown, and is the subject of this PhD project. The work involves investigation of genetic variation in different barley genotypes to determine whether modern breeding has selected against mycorrhization. Also, the effect of specific resistance genes on the symbiotic association will be investigated. The widely-used mlo gene, which confers resistance against powdery mildew, could have a negative impact on mycorrhization.

This will be tested with a series of allelic variants for mlo and modifiers of the gene. Immune responses induced by chitin, a constituent of the fungal cell wall, will be tested for their involvement in establishment of mycorrhiza using RNAi silenced lines with reduced chitin perception.  The research will provide the basis for breeding improved varieties for sustainable yield with reduced inputs. The project provides high-quality training in plant pathology and mycorrhizal biology, molecular biology, plant genetics, bioinformatics and statistics. The student will benefit from working with three labs, each specialising in plant immunity, mycorrhization and cereal genetics.

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Entry Requirements:

2:1 or 2:2 plus Masters. English Language – IELTS 6.5 overall with 6 in each category.


Due to funding restrictions funding for PhD studentships from BBSRC is available to successful candidates who meet the UK Research Council eligibility criteria including the 3-year UK residency requirements. These requirements are detailed in the BBSRC eligibility guidelines:


In most cases UK and EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the course are eligible for a full-award. Other EU nationals may qualify for a fees only award. All candidates should check to confirm their eligibility for funding.

The current stipend for 2013/14 is £13,726 per annum.

Making Your Application:

For further information and to apply, please visit the ‘How to Apply’ page on our website by clicking Apply.

Additional Information:

In keeping with the postgraduate training policy of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) all students recruited onto this programme will be required to undertake a three months internship during the second or third year of their study. The internship will offer exciting and invaluable experience of work in an area outside of research, and full support and advice will be provided by a professional team from the UEA.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) – a collaboration between the Norwich Biosciences Institutes and the University of East Anglia.  Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the Studentship Competition.  The interview dates will be the 14th and 15th January 2014.

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