Project Details


Aims of project: 1. Use metagenomics-based approaches to explore fungal communities and spore production dynamics in UK arable crop systems and how these processes might be influenced by different crop rotations.
2. Investigate the role of regional spore dispersal in driving UK arable crop disease epidemics and how this might be changing over time.
3. Understand how extreme weather events, expected to become more common under future climate change, might influence spore production and dispersal dynamics of fungal pathogens of UK arable crops.

Brief project outline: This is a four-year PhD project in collaboration with Rothamsted Research and the University of Hertfordshire (UH).
There is a need to investigate the seasonal timing and production of fungal spores in UK arable crop systems under current and future environmental conditions and crop management regimes (e.g. with or without cover crops). This is because plant pathogens cause substantial losses to agricultural crops and threaten UK national and international food security. It is important to understand timing and spore dispersal of fungal plant pathogens across multiple spatial scales to underpin knowledge on disease epidemiology. First, metagenomics-based molecular studies are required to profile and compare fungal communities in soil, crop canopy air, and above canopy air (roof top spore sampler) to understand what soil and plant-inhabiting fungi are released into the air and how this might change between arable crop rotations. Second, work is needed to determine the role of airborne spores in driving UK arable crop disease epidemics, and how such spore release timings might be changing in comparison with crop growth stages. Last, additional research is required to investigate how extreme weather events such as drought and flooding that are expected to increase under future climate change, will affect the development of fungal fruiting bodies that release spores driving crop disease outbreaks.
The proposed PhD project seeks to improve understanding of fungal pathogen spore dispersal in UK arable crop systems and how this might be changing, with the overall aim of improved disease management. The project will focus on diseases of wheat and oilseed rape and has three inter-related work streams, more comprehensive details of which are given further below:
1. Understanding airborne spore production via fungal metagenomic analysis.
2. Understanding regional spore dispersal in air.
3. Understanding spore production under changing environmental conditions
Effective start/end date2/10/2330/09/27


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