Max-CROP, Max-imising the potential of CROP researchers


European Framework 7 European Industrial Doctorate PhD training programme

This four year programme is a partnership between NIAB Trading Ltd and the University of Wageningen, The Netherlands


Max-CROP Project Summary

Max-CROP has trained four early career stage researchers (ESRs) to the level of a PhD degree in areas of science that impact on crop production. The training provided has maximised the potential of this next-generation of crop researchers, producing individuals that understand the problems facing the agricultural industry, including crop breeding, agronomy and production, while being able to apply advanced scientific understanding and modern technologies to solve these problems. The ESRs have received Max-CROP training in crop genomics and biology, crop pathology and biostatistics, and entrepreneurship at the Cambridge University, Judge Business School, while complementary and transferable skills has been provided by Wageningen University (WU). They have participated in many stakeholder and pubic engagement activities hosted by NIAB Trading. Along with the research training undertaken for their PhDs, this training will enable them to make significant contributions to crop production in their subsequent careers. The research projects have covered four crops, wheat, barley, oil seed rape and potato. Max-CROP has made careers in agriculture an attractive choice for a new generation of researchers, opening up new opportunities and improving career prospects for the ESRs. Max-CROP has also established new collaborations between NIAB Trading, Cambridge, UK and the academic partner, WU, Netherlands.

Summary of individual ESR project findings:

ESR1 has confirmed that two barley receptor-like kinases identified in transient assays confer non-host resistance (NHR) in barley to the wheat-adapted pathogen of powdery mildew, Blumeria graminis f. sp. tritici. ESR1 has also narrowed down a region on the barley genome that confers NHR to the wheat leaf rust pathogen, Puccinia triticina, to a genetic region of 0.6cM.

ESR2 has identified mutations within the α- γ- and or ω-gliadins in wheat cvs Paragon and Fielder. ESR 2 has developed protein and quantitative DNA assays by which to identify these mutations. ESR4 has confirmed that the UK Verticillium longisporum population is genetically more diverse than other V. longisporum populations studied. Field assessment of oil seed rape varieties to V. longisporum identified variation in resistance. However, the impact of V. longisporum on yield was inconsistent.

ESR 4 has produced a genome sequence of V. longisporum which shows that V. longisporum has a mosaic genome structure due to recombination between parental chromosome sets, and that V. longisporum genes have generally a more divergent evolution than genes from non-hybrid Verticillium species. ESR4 has also shown that the parental mitochondrial genomes have recombined, resulting in a mosaic structure of the V. longisporum mitochondrial genome.

ESR5 has shown that only large-spored Alternaria species; A. solani, A. grandis, A. linariae (syn. A. tomatophyla) and A. protenta, cause early-blight symptoms on potato. DArT-Seq SNP markers were used to identify individual Alternaria isolates, showing the incursion of isolates into experimental field trials, and that certain isolates were able to persist over years.