Exploiting wheat-wild relative introgression lines and synthetics for resistance to viral diseases under climate change

Project Summary:

A major cause contributing to the loss of agricultural production is the impact of pests and pathogens. Globally, pathogens destroy ~20% of wheat production even with improved pest and disease management measures. Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) is the most economically important virus in UK cereals transmitted by various aphid species. In the case of severe infections, BYDV can cause losses of up to 60% in winter wheat. Other soil-borne Polymyxa graminis-transmitted viruses, such as Soilborne wheat mosaic virus (SBWMV), also threaten European wheat production.

Control of viral diseases in crops through genetics is becoming more appealing, especially for BYDV, following the loss of seed treatment options for autumn aphid control and concerns about moderate resistance in aphids to pyrethroid sprays. Just a few wheat varieties show reasonable tolerance to these viruses. Therefore, there is a big need for new sources of resistance to broaden the genetic base of resistance. Wild relatives of wheat could potentially be the source of such genetic variation. A recent study has transferred resistance against SBWMV from Triticum monococcum to hexaploid wheat. At Nottingham Wheat Research Centre, we have developed various wheat wild relative introgression lines that can be similarly exploited for viral resistance/tolerance.

Climate change is closely related to the level of losses from plant diseases because the environment significantly affects plants, pathogens and their vectors. Extreme weather conditions will increase insect vectored virus diseases due to greater vector activity. Despite the fact that plant viral diseases are a serious threat to food crops, only a few studies have investigated the interactions between plants and viruses under increased temperatures or elevated CO2.

This project brings together a three-way collaboration between the University of Nottingham, National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), Cambridge, and RAGT Seeds Ltd. All three organisations are key members of the wheat research community due to their world-leading activities in wheat breeding, research and innovation. The collaboration will allow the student to be exposed to wheat research carried out in three very different institutions.

The student will be involved in screening wheat-wild relative introgression lines for virus resistance/tolerance. The project will be based on primarily on two sites. In the first and last year the student will be based at the University of Nottingham and in years 2 and 3 the student will be based at the NIAB. The University of Nottingham will provide the student the knowledge and skills to work with wheat’s wild relative species which are crucial for increasing wheat’s genetic variation to combat biotic and abiotic stresses brought upon by climate change NIAB will provide the student a chance to learn a skilled technique in disease screening directly from the experts and receive exposure to their field screening platforms. During their time at RAGT, the student will work in the company’s virus nursery to obtain an understanding on how the viruses behave in the field and the key differences between their behaviour in the field versus controlled environment conditions.

For more information contact Dr Surbhi Grewal (Surbhi.grewal@nottingham.ac.uk).

To apply and check your eligibility, please click go to https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/bbdtp/apply/how-to-apply.aspx and you can find further information about how to apply to our programme.

Funding details:

Home and international students are welcome to apply for this opportunity. Funding is available for four years from late September 2023. The award covers tuition fee (£4,596) at the home rate plus an annual stipend which was (£17,668) for 2022. This is set by the Research Councils. Please note that successful international candidates will be put forward for a University Fees Difference Scholarship to cover the difference between the home and international fee.

 Apply online here by noon on Tuesday 17th January 2023



Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Doctoral Training Programme

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Tel: +44 (0) 115 8466946
Email: bbdtp@nottingham.ac.uk