PhD Research Project – Characterisation of Potato Cyst Nematode Populations in Great Britain for Sustainable Crop Management

The potato cyst nematodes (PCN) (Globodera rostochiensis and G. pallida) are destructive pests of potato crops in the UK. The Potato Council (PCL) have recently estimated that PCN cause annual crop losses to the value of £25.9 million. Increasing industry concern has resulted in PCN being cited as an ‘Industry Research Priority’ in the ‘PCL Research & Development Strategy: 2012–2015’.

Understanding PCN populations is of paramount importance to the selection of appropriate management methods. This study aims to characterise PCN populations of Great Britain by (i) Conducting a PCN survey in England, Wales and Scotland (ii) Examining the virulence of G. pallida populations (iii) Determining the viability of the populations using a test validated within this project.

There is some evidence that mixed populations of G. pallida occur together and may become more virulent over successive generations. Virulence tests will be conducted on field populations using a range of potato genotypes to gain a better understanding of PCN populations in the UK. The findings of this work will be beneficial to the development of resistant cultivars.

Currently viability is not estimated in PCN population density assessments. Determining the viability of eggs within the cysts is essential for assessing the effectiveness of control treatments and making decisions on inputs. The project will explore and develop various methods for estimating viability before validating the most promising method under field conditions. Viability assessments will be conducted on survey samples in an attempt to identify factors associated with a loss of viability.

The successful applicant will undertake a 6-12 month placement at the James Hutton Institute (near Dundee) under the guidance of Dr Vivian Blok. This time will be spent developing a viability assay.

Applications should be made through the HAU website: further details of the project can be found. The studentship will start in October 2013, with the exact starting date to be negotiated at interview. Interviews will take place by Skype for shortlisted applicants living outside the UK.

Further information can be found on Harper Adams University at and on the research training provided and PhD progression requirements in the Postgraduate Research Students Handbook at

For informal enquiries on general aspects of research degrees at HAU, applicants may contact Mrs Viv Slann, Research Students Administrator ( For informal enquiries on the project, applicants may contact Dr Matthew Back on

Applicants will normally be expected to hold a bachelor’s degree with first or upper second class honours (UK applicants) or a high GPA (international applicants) in an appropriate subject. A relevant master’s degree may be an advantage.

A minimum level of competency in English is required. International applicants need to be classed as an overall grade 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component using the International English Language Test System (IELTS) or equivalent Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or PTE score.

Funding Notes:

The studentship includes tuition and bench fees and a stipend of £13,500 rising by £500 annual increments.

Applicants from both EU and non-EU countries are eligible for stipend and fees.


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Posted on April 30, 2013, in Job Opportunities, Research grants, fellowship and scholarships, Youth and Agriculture and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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