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Investigation into the agronomic and biological factors affecting postharvest bruising in Pastinaca sativa (Parsnip)

Project supervisors: Dr Jeremy Pritchard, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham Dr Laura Vickers, Crop and Environment Sciences, Harper Adams University

Non-academic partner: Mrs Sue Kennedy and Dr Richard Tudor, Elsoms Seeds

Project title: Investigation into the agronomic and biological factors affecting postharvest bruising in Pastinaca sativa (Parsnip)

Project outline:

A 4 year fully funded doctorate programme opportunity is offered by the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with applied agricultural specialists Harper Adams University and Elsoms Seeds Ltd. The student will benefit from scientific training in plant physiology, crop production, agronomy and transcriptomics, as well as a placement within the UK’s leading independent plant breeding and seed treatment specialists, where the student will gain business insight into the agricultural and particularly the fresh produce sector.

Project detail:

In 2013 over 3,000 hectares of parsnip were grown in the UK producing 82,500 tonnes of parsnip, with a market value of £31M (Defra), with the value of parsnip seed estimated to be approximately £4M. Unfortunately in the UK roughly 40% of edible fresh produce can be lost along the supply chain, the majority of which is due to produce being misshapen, non-uniform or aeasthetic disorders such as bruising discolouration. Whilst we understand the process that produces bruising discolouration, we know very little on the environmental and biological factors that lead to bruising.

This project aims to uncover the underlying biological traits that contribute to bruising in parsnip, and establish the agronomic and postharvest factors that can increase the incidence of bruising. To achieve this the successful candidate will be expected to design and interpret a mixture of laboratory-based experiments at the University of Birmingham and field trials at Harper Adams University and parsnip grower sites around the UK.

This project is a mix of basic & applied science and knowledge transfer, forming a challenging, stimulating and industry relevant PhD studentship. The project will provide the student will a huge breadth of training in applied agricultural science, lab-based plant physiology and transcriptomics. The successful candidate will be expected to investigate the effect of different soil types, irrigation and fertigation regimes on the incidence and severity of bruising in parsnips, and to attempt to understand whether we can predict the likelihood to bruise through the transcriptome or plant physiological traits such as cell wall creep, composition and plant water status.

The student will work closely with project collaborators Elsoms Seeds and Harper Adams University, who provide the opportunity for the student to relate research directly to on-farm scenarios and carry out some experimental work in situ. As part of the project the student will also have the opportunity to learn about how agricultural businesses work and to disseminate their findings at grower events, enhancing their career prospects.

Project start date and training package:

The successful candidate is expected to start in October 2016. During the first term of year 1 the student will join in taught modules with their cohort, and then complete a project placement at Elsoms Seeds. The PhD project work at the University of Birmingham will start in 2017 with trails being conducted at Harper Adams University and at grower sites around the country.

Entry Requirements:

Applicants require a 2:1 or higher in agriculture, plant biology, plant biotechnology, botany, biosciences or other related subject area. Due to funding limitations the candidates must be UK-based meeting the BBSRC studentship eligibility criteria (Please check ‘BBSRC Guide To Studentship Eligibility’, Section 2: Residence Criteria: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/studentship-eligibility-pdf ).

Closing date: 6th January 2016

Interview dates: 27th, 28th & 29th January 2016.

For information and applications please contact Dr Laura Vickers (Harper Adams Unviersity) and Dr Jeremy Pritchard (University of Birmingham) together with a copy of your CV.