Sustainable yield of oilseed rape through improved resistance against Leptosphaeria maculans (phoma stem canker)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hertfordshire
Department Name: Health and Human Sciences RI


The aim of the proposed project is to understand disease resistance that is both durable and resilient to increased temperature. It thus is within the BBSRC's strategic research priority for food security. It also fits with KTN's priority on Crop Defence for Food and Feed Security; sustainable production of crops with increased yields is needed to meet the rising demand of a growing human population. Plant diseases threaten crop production, with yield losses of ~20% globally. Breeding for disease-resistance is economically and environmentally the best way to control crop diseases. There is a particular need for durable disease resistance, especially since specific host genes that confer resistance against particular pathogen races can be rendered ineffective by rapid pathogen population changes.

The PhD student working on this project will gain experience in genetics of sustainable crop production and translational research. These skill sets will be a key asset for improving disease resistance breeding. Our recent research on resistance of oilseed rape (Brassica napus) against the phoma stem canker pathogen Leptosphaeria maculans suggests a link between the durability and temperature resilience of disease resistance. Phoma stem canker causes losses in UK oilseed rape production of c. £100M per annum. With the removal of effective fungicides due to changes in EU legislation (Directive 91/414,, there is an increasing need to develop effective resistance against L. maculans. In particular, durable resistance against phoma stem canker pathogen is a high priority for breeding companies like LS Plant Breeding and the parent company NPZ.

Resistance to L. maculans conferred by distinct temperature-sensitive R genes (Rlm6, LepR3) was rendered ineffective by pathogen population changes within three growing seasons in France and Australia, respectively. Conversely, there is evidence that Rlm7 is a more durable, temperature-resilient R gene. The hypothesis that temperature resilience and durability may be linked has not been tested. To better understand the mechanism of temperature-sensitivity of disease resistance, R genes will be tested in different cultivar backgrounds and the role of a specific heat-shock protein (HSP) will be explored. The following specific objectives are proposed.

1. To determine the effects of cultivar genetic background on temperature-sensitive resistance of different R genes.
2. To study temperature-sensitivity of resistance in commercial breeding materials with different L. maculans races.
3. To examine the contribution of HSP90 to temperature-sensitive R gene-mediated resistance.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/N503848/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019
1662042 Studentship BB/N503848/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019 Katherine Noel