We are currently advertising DTP and CASE studentships for October 2019 start. The deadline for applications is the 26th November 2018.

26 / 09 / 2018

Harnessing disease resistance by association directly in wild sea beet (HALL_E19CASE)

how to apply

Pathogens and their hosts co-evolve in an evolutionary arms race, meaning that genetic diversity is maintained in pathogen genes involved in host invasion, as well as in host resistance genes. In an agricultural setting, however, crop breeding restricts the ability of crops to adapt.

All crops were domesticated from wild progenitors and many are affected by the same pathogens. Unravelling host-pathogen interactions in a wild-agricultural host system can therefore drive our understanding of how plant hosts adapt as well as lead to the identification of novel wild resistance gene candidates for breeding programs.

Sugar beet is one of the most recently domesticated crops and it can still be crossed with its wild progenitor, sea beet. Wild sea beet represents a reservoir of genetic diversity and, importantly, is infected by the same rust pathogen, Uromyces beticola, as sugar beet. Identifying the genetic diversity that confers resistance to this pathogen in wild beet can help us to improve yields of cultivated beet through manipulation or breeding.

In this PhD project, you will employ state-of-the-art genome sequencing and analysis technologies and techniques (i.e. population genomics & AgRenSeq) to identify beet rust resistance directly from wild hosts and their offspring. You will identify and then analyse wild resistance genes for signals of natural selection and with our industrial partner, KWS, you will apply biotechnological approaches to candidate genes to engineer better resistance.

The project will be jointly supervised by Mark McMullan and Neil Hall at the Earlham Institute and Brande Wulff at the John Innes Centre on the Norwich Research Park, and conducted in close collaboration with KWS UK. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Mark McMullan (