Phd Studentship: Exploiting induced resistance for trait enhancement in hydroponically-grown crops

United Kingdom
Jan 13, 2019
Feb 12, 2019
Contract Type
Full Time
Job Type
PhD / Doctoral
MIBTP CASE PhD studentship with industrial collaborator Saturn Bioponics In a nutshell:

Due to their increasing unsuitability and the fact that they are increasingly looked down upon socially, the use of pesticides in agricultural fields has been highly legislated. This PhD studentship will develop technology to be implemented into Integrated Disease Management (IDM) and precision hydroponic crop production. The results will provide new strategies to reduce pesticides and improve quality traits in hydroponically grown crops.

Key facts about the studentship:

- PhD studentship at the interphase between fundamental and applied plant pathology
- Supported by a agri-tech company to facilitate transference of discoveries into commercial products
- International supervisory team
- Opportunities to improving transferable skills for careers in management, science policy and industry


Fruit and vegetables represent a major source of food worldwide. However, pathogenic infection alone means more than one third of these products fail to reach the customer. Several economically important crops are grown largely in soil-less/hydroponic systems but this system can encounter challenges with controlling pathogens. Current methods of control depend on the use of chemicals that are increasingly regarded as unsustainable. Therefore, it is urgent to develop alternative strategies to control diseases. Research that exploits the plant's immune system to confer protection against diseases provides a sophisticated source for future Integrated Disease Management (IDM).

Plant defence elicitors (i.e. agents with the capacity to activate or prime mechanisms of resistance) has recently emerged as a safer approach to reduce crop waste to diseases. Besides, little is known about the potential side effects of elicitors in nutrient intake, plant growth, fruit quality or their performance in more intensive commercial settings. In addition, our understanding of the molecular plant mechanisms of action is limited, which hinders their potential application to a wider market. Importantly, key aspects such the application methods, concentrations and formulations enhance the level of complexity for a successful implementation in hydroponic systems.


1. Map out the effect of plant defence elicitors in hydroponics and test different strategies
2. To identify and score the impact on growth and other desirable quality traits of the elicitors in both fruiting and vegetative products
3. Broaden the fundamental understanding of mechanisms that mark long-lasting induced resistance
4. Understand and detail what further exploration / follow-on research can be done to exploit the benefits of elicitors more broadly


Funding Notes

Applications accepted from UK students. EU students may be eligible; where the student has been living in the UK for 3 years prior to the programme start date. Please check the MIBTP