Understanding wheat take-all infection spread, chemical resistance and biocontrol

Vacancy details:

Supervisor: Prof Neil Hall / Dr Mark McMullan
Contact email: neil.hall@earlham.ac.uk
Co-supervisor: Prof Anne Osbourn (JIC)
Reference: HALL_E24DTP2
Start date: 01 October 2024
Application deadline: 20 November 2023
Funding 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Take-all is the most important root disease of wheat worldwide and is caused by the fungus Gaeumannomyces tritici. 

This fungus belongs to an important group of grass-infecting pathogens, including rice and wheat blast fungi (Magnaporthales, Ascomycota), but take-all infection of wheat is an understudied disease. Little is known about how far it spreads or the intraspecific diversity within fields, landscapes, and among continents.

Surveillance or diagnostics in the field are almost non-existent. Understanding G. tritici virulence partitioning within and between populations, its spread, virulence mechanism, and its polymorphic resistance to silthiofam fungicide will also be essential to developing improved crop protection regimes. 

In this PhD project, you will develop skills to analyse genetic diversity in a pangenomics era, - for example, GWAS and population genomics. You will initially address fundamental questions on the diversity and spread of the fungus across landscapes and continents, as well as through time. 

This understanding will frame questions on the evolution of fungicide resistance. Finally, you will use expression analysis to test predictions from your previous work on the virulence mechanisms employed by this pathogen, as well as a closely related biocontrol agent. 

This studentship will benefit from the Delivering Sustainable Wheat programme’s investment in re-sequencing of hundreds of G. tritici isolates sampled in the UK and globally over the last 70 years. 

It will also make use of a UK pangenome resource for G. tritici which has been developed by the Earlham Institute in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, as part of the earlier Designing Future Wheat programme. A range of training, mentorship, and career development opportunities will be available.

The project will be jointly supervised by Dr Mark McMullan and Prof Neil Hall at the Earlham Institute, Prof Anne Osbourn at the John Innes Centre, and conducted in close collaboration with Dr Kim Hammond-Kosack at Rothamsted Research.


Further reading:


Further information:

Application deadline: Monday 20 November 2023 (23:59 i.e.,midnight).

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 23, 24 or 25 January 2024.

Visit the NRPDTP website for further information on eligibility and how to apply.

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD studentship.

The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend to cover living expenses (2023/4 stipend rate: £18,622), and a Research Training Support Grant of £5,000pa for each year of the studentship.

Entry requirements:
At least UK equivalence Bachelors (Honours) 2:1 or UK equivalence Master's degree. English Language requirement (Faculty of Science equivalent: IELTS 6.5 overall, 6 in each category).

Neil Hall, Profile Picture

Hall Group

Genomes of microbes and microbial communities.