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Understanding and mitigating against the causes of yield decline in pea

Project supervisors: Dr John Clarkson - School of Life Sciences

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Non-Academic partner: Dr Lea Wiesel - Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO)

Project title: Understanding and mitigating against the causes of yield decline in pea

Project outline:

Pea is an important legume grown for human and animal consumption. Both vining and combining peas are grown in Europe, for fresh vegetable/frozen (vining) and the dried pulse crop (combining) markets. The intensive use of fields for vining pea production has led to yield declines of up to 40%, attributed to the build up of a complex of soilborne plant pathogens causing foot-rot. Pathogens involved in the complex include fungi such as Fusarium, Aphanomyces and Didymella spp. However, the relative abundance and dynamics of these is unknown. It is also difficult to identify and quantify many of these pathogens to predict yield decline and other than long rotations there are no strategies for mitigation. One approach is to use green manure/biofumigant crops in the rotation, which when incorporated into the soil, can improve soil health and reduce the impact of soilborne diseases in other systems.

This project aims to 1) understand the components and dynamics of the foot-rot complex as well as associated microbiota in the pea rhizosphere using both conventional and metagenomics approaches, 2) develop molecular diagnostics for key pathogens and 3) identify green manure / biofumigant crops that can suppress foot-rot.

For 1), isolations of fungi from affected peas will be made and pathogenicity tested using established plant infection assays to determine the range of pathogens present in foot-rot affected fields. In a complimentary approach, DNA from root/rhizosphere samples affected/unaffected by foot-rot will be subjected to amplicon sequencing to identify, compare and understand the dynamics of the different microbial communities and pathogens across multiple field sites. For 2), multiple isolates of each pathogen will be identified and characterised through sequencing of appropriate housekeeping genes, and PCR diagnostics developed for those that are most prevalent. For 3), the effect of different biofumigant plants will be tested for their effect on selected pathogens in vitro, in plant based assays in the greenhouse and finally in the field.

The project builds on an existing informal collaboration between Warwick and the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) and directly addresses the BBSRC priority area of agriculture and food security, specifically to ‘increase the efficiency and sustainability of crop and animal production, reduce waste in the food chain’. Results of the research will potentially have a considerable impact on the sustainability of the UK pea industry.

Closing date for applications: 31st March 2017

Check eligibilty and apply here

Please note:

iCASE students must fulfil the MIBTP entry requirements and will join the MIBTP cohort for the taught modules and masterclasses during the first term. iCASE students can then start their PhD project in Jan 2018 but must complete a 3-month miniproject (at a non-home institution) before the end of their first year. They will remain as an integral part of the MIBTP cohort and take part in the core networking activities and transferable skills training. MIBTP iCase.