PhD Research Project – Investigating the phenotypic and genetic dynamics of potato late blight disease in Ireland

Application deadline: 10 June, 2013

Institution:  Teagasc Irish Agriculture & Food Development Authority

We are looking for a motivated student to fill a PhD position in a 4 year fully-funded research programme that is a collaborative project with University College Dublin. Scheduled to commence September 2013, and supported through the Irish Department of Agriculture’s Research Stimulus Fund, the student will work as a member in an inter-disciplinary team tasked with monitoring the pathogenic evolution of potato late blight disease (Phytophthora infestans) on the island of Ireland (Project MonPesc).
Globally, Ireland consistently achieves some of the highest potato yields due to a moist maritime climate during the growing season. Yet, the emergence of highly aggressive, fungicide-resistant strains of late blight threaten the sector’s future competitiveness. To address this, farmers have had to increase the fungicide load they apply on their potato crops. Unsustainable in the long-term, the current strategies have led to an accelerated rate of genetic change in pathogen populations. As a consequence, novel strains of Phytophthora infestans have emerged, which present a significant challenge to the continued viability of potato cropping in Ireland.

In response, this project aims to investigate this issue by completing a robust pathogen monitoring strategy for late blight disease using an effectoromics-based strategy to model the evolution of genetic change in past, present and future late blight populations. Specifically, we need to know are these novel strains impacting on native blight strains? Is, or has, genetic recombination occurred and what is going to be the impact of this on Irish potato crops? Also how will these new strains respond to novel sources of varietal resistance that are coming on stream through potato breeding programmes?

The candidates will be based full time at the Teagasc Crop Research Centre in Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland and will be academically registered with UCD. Over the course of the 4 year tenure, the student will be trained in cutting edge biotechnology techniques (e.g. 454 sequencing), molecular biology, plant and fungal tissue culture, crop agronomy and genomics. The student will gain exposure to all aspects of potato production as Oak Park is also home to the National Potato Breeding programme, which has been breeding potato varieties for national and international markets for over 40 years. As per the academic requirements of UCD, the successful candidate will be expected to take project-relevance courses at the UCD campus in Dublin to ensure they attain the necessary number of credits for PhD level.

The project will suit a student with a background in crop science / agronomy / molecular biology / microbiology / plant biology. He/she will possess an honours B.Sc degree (grade 2.1 or higher) and an M.Sc in a relevant discipline. As the student will present at both national and international conferences proficiency in both written and spoken English is critical as is a demonstrated ability to innovate and problem solve in the laboratory.


Interested applicants must email
1. A detailed CV that includes experience of problem solving, publications and research projects undertaked to date.
2. A list of two referees (email and phone numbers)
3. A cover letter describing why you would be interested in completing this specific project.
Applications not meeting all three criteria will not be reviewed.



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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