Sustainable solutions to combat Downy Mildew pathogen of pea

ARORA_J22CASE:

Pea is a globally important legume crop valued for its role in soil nitrogen fixation, sustainable agriculture and providing a rich source of plant protein. The crop yield and quality are at a high risk from Downy Mildew (DM) pathogen, affecting both vining and combining peas in the UK, due to the recent withdrawal of the widely used metalaxyl-M containing fungicides for outdoor sowing of seeds. The aim of this project is to use genomic tools to understand the pathogen diversity and its role in disease epidemics, find and validate novel sources of genetic resistance to DM. To this end, we will evaluate a genetically diverse Pisum germplasm collection containing cultivars, landraces and wild species for novel sources of resistance and validate the potential of discovered candidate genes using mutants, biparental populations and/or gene editing. Identified resistances will be transferred into elite pea varieties, using marker-assisted selection in collaboration with our industrial partner, Limagrain, where the student will have the opportunity to undertake a three-month placement. The pathogen diversity will also be genetically characterized to develop a diagnostic tool for the rapid identification of pathogen races and map their distribution across UK to help the growers make an informed decision in the variety selection.

We are looking for a motivated student who is interested to explore the Pisum germplasm and implement state-of-the-art gene cloning technologies, including association genetics using both resistance gene enrichment sequencing (AgRenSeq) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). Training will be provided in plant pathology, genetics, breeding, molecular biology techniques and bioinformatics.

This is a BBSRC NRPDTP-funded CASE studentship based in the laboratory of Sanu Arora and co-supervised by Claire Domoney, in close collaboration with our industrial partner Limagrain and KWS LOCHOW GMBH. The student will also collaborate with NIAB, Cambridge to culture isolates of DM pathogen and develop high-throughput phenotyping methods.

References 

[1] Gaurav*, Arora* et al., Population genomic analysis of Aegilops tauschii identifies targets for bread wheat improvement. (2021) Nature Biotechnology

[2] Arora et al., Resistance gene cloning from a wild crop relative by sequence capture and association genetics. (2019) Nature Biotechnology 37: 139-143

[3] Domoney et al., Exploiting a fast neutron mutant genetic resource in Pisum sativum (pea) for functional genomics. (2013) Functional Plant Biology 40: 1261-70