Plant pathology and fungicide resistance


4 Years


Monday, June 14, 2021 - 23:00


Biointeractions and Crop Protection


University of Bristol


CASE Partner RAGT Seeds UK


Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) threatens sustainable UK wheat production. Control of BYDV has historically relied upon vector-targeted mitigation strategies underpinned by pesticides, removing aphid species which acquire and spread the virus during feeding. Prior to late 2018 when a ban came into force, neonicotinoid seed treatments were widely used to protect winter wheat. Growers retain the option of alternative insecticide use, such as pyrethroids, but these require foliar sprays which are neither always possible in autumnal conditions nor specific, killing beneficial insects. Increasing levels of pyrethroid

resistance by key aphid species are also being recorded. Combined with the demand for pyrethroids, a markedly high risk for rapid spread of insecticide resistance exists, further reducing the chemical arsenal available for controlling BYDV. Sources of genetic resistance are consequently of value and have become a renewed focus by the wheat breeders. This includes RAGT Seeds who have recently developed the BYDV resistant cultivar RGT Wolverine.

This PhD project would involve screening the Wolverine source of BYDV resistance (and/or tolerance) against informative BYDV isolates, qualifying the level of resistance to different virus strains and determining whether strain complementation could overcome resistance. Through a series of experiments including antibody-based whole plant tissue printing combined with western blotting, the spatial and temporal movement of BYDV within resistant and susceptible plant lines will also be explored. Using the ‘MutChromSeq’ approach, or transcriptomics combined with bulk segregant analysis, the causal genomic loci underpinning the BYDV resistance will be elucidated.

In concert to this work, an additional focus will be the development of a mid/high-throughput RT-qPCR assay for BYDV, as well as new approaches and technologies to help identify and/or validate other resistances. Limited reliable in-field BYDV resistance screening methodologies currently exist with most testing relying upon natural BYDV presence. During this PhD, prevalent strains of BYDV will be identified (via the Rothamsted UK insect suction trap network) and used to develop infectious clones (ICs). The use of these ICs with biolistic inoculation strategies will be explored and an IC ‘toolkit’ for

screening wheat germplasm potentially developed. This would allow simplified maintenance of pure BYDV strains in bacterial cultures, rapid generation of a desired inoculum and robust investigations into BYDV strain complementation.

This PhD represents an opportunity to generate valuable applied outputs with training provided (where required) on molecular biology/virology techniques, bioinformatics, entomology, critical thinking and conceptualising, data interpretation, and glasshouse and field work. 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Statement

We want to support diverse and inclusive work environments. We therefore welcome applications from individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, or disability status. We welcome applications from individuals who have previously studied at any recognised Higher Education Institute and from a range of career paths (please refer to the SWBio DTP academic criteria for eligibility), including individuals who have previously trained in the sciences and are wanting to return to scientific research.

We particularly encourage applications from BAME* and mature (this is classed as 30+ years) individuals as these backgrounds are currently underrepresented within our student cohort. *Black, Asian and minority ethnic.

Academic criteria

Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant research or non-academic experience.

In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, a minimum of a grade B in A-level Maths or an equivalent qualification or experience is required.

Equivalent Maths qualifications/experience
  • Physics A-level (grade B and above)
  • Undertaking units as part of your degree that have a significant mathematical component*

*Significant mathematical component examples include; maths, statistics, bioinformatics.

Applicants must ensure they highlight their Maths background within their application and to upload any supporting evidence.

Residence criteria

UKRI have recently updated their policy for funded studentships which starts from the 2021/2022 academic year.

IMPORTANT: Please read the UKRI guidance on using training grant terms and conditions (refer to Annex B) under the ‘Terms and Conditions for training funding section’ alongside the information provided below.

Home students

Fully-funded studentships are available for Home students.  To be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirement) or,
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

International students

If you do not meet the above criteria, you will be classed as an International student.

A limited number (up to 30%) of UKRI fully-funded studentships are available through the SWBio DTP, that applicants who would be classed as an International student are eligible for.  Please apply through our normal application route.

To be eligible for a fully-funded studentship, you must meet the below academic and residence criteria.

A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover:

  • a stipend* (at the standard UKRI rate; £15,285 per annum for 2020-2021)
  • research and training costs
  • tuition fees (at the standard UKRI rate)
  • additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month placement

To apply for this project, please complete our Rothamsted PhD Application Form which can be found in the downloads section of this advert.

All applications should include a fully completed application form, CV, a transcript of module marks and two references.

The reference form which will need to be completed by your referees can be found on the downloads section of this project. These references should be sent directly from the referees to Donna Fellowes; by the deadline: Midnight, 14th June 2021.