BBSRC EASTBIO PhD studentship in Plant Science: Targeting trichome traits in tomato
The project uses genes know to control hair (trichome) density in snapdragons to alter the density of secretory hairs in tomato plants and to test the effects on plant performance. Hairs are implicated in natural defence of plants against herbivores, UV light and drought. Increased hair density is therefore predicted to increase resistance to herbivores (which result in annual crop losses of 18%) sustainably, without increased chemical inputs, and increase tolerance to drought and UV currently responsible for 10% of global crop losses and likely to increase with climate change. This project will test whether these benefits can be achieved without penalties. It is therefore clearly within BBSRC Strategic Research Priority 1 (Agriculture & Food Security). Though tomato is not an agricultural crop in the UK, it is the most important fruit crop globally and represents a feasible stepping stone from a model (Antirrhinum) to crops in general. Trichome secretions are also the sources of many high-value compounds, including pharmaceuticals such as artemisinin the “A” in the standard ACT treatment for P.falciparum malaria. An ability to increase trichome density, either by marker-assisted breeding or gene editing, is therefore relevant to BBSRC Strategic Research Priority2 (Industrial Biotechnology & Bioenergy).
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