Characterising Rice Genetic Diversity of the Past to Safeguard the Future


Rice is a versatile carbohydrate essential to diets worldwide and a staple food for over 50% of the human population. However, climate change is threatening rice’s wide availability. This PhD is joint between the RBG Kew and the Earlham institute. It aims to understand how modern agriculture has impacted rice genetic diversity. The project will make use of the latest genomic data and sequencing technology.

The student will quantify the genetic diversity in local landraces and across historic collections. They will investigate their genetic makeup and quantify deleterious mutations that hinder the further improvement of rice and its adaptation to future climates.

The project will be based in the Hall group at the Earlham Institute (Y1 and Y2) and Gutaker’s group at RBG Kew (Y3 and Y4). The combined expertise across these teams will provide mentorship and guidance in genomic and bioinformatic approaches to the study of plant diversity and evolution, and provide the foundation for the development of a comprehensive cross-disciplinary skill set. A skill set that is in high demand in both the public and private sectors. It will also provide the chance for collaboration with international rice groups in Vietnam and at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

The student will have access to Earlham Institute’s and RGB Kew’s state-of-art high-performance computing, horticultural infrastructure, herbarium and seed collections.


[1] Gutaker et al. (2020) Genomic history and ecology of the geographic spread of rice. Nature Plants 6: 492-502.

[2] Khanh et al. (2021). Rice Breeding in Vietnam: Retrospects, Challenges and Prospects. Agriculture, 11(5), 397.

[3] Higgins et al. (2021) Resequencing of 672 Native Rice Accessions to Explore Genetic Diversity and Trait Associations in Vietnam. Rice, 14: 52.

[4] Higgins et al. (2022) Identifying genomic regions and candidate genes selected during the breeding of rice in Vietnam. Evolutionary Applications, 15: 1141-61.

[5] Shang et al. (2022). A super pan-genomic landscape of rice. Cell Research, in press. 10.1038/s41422-022-00685-z