Safeguarding our daily bread from wheat blast

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Graduate Office


Throughout history, disease epidemics have been ubiquitous in agriculture. In 1985, a new wheat disease giving rise to white, withered heads empty of grain, appeared in Brazil. Since then, 'wheat blast' has spread across South America where in some years it causes 100% yield loss. Last year wheat blast emerged in Bangladesh, threatening the wheat belts of South Asia, home to 300 million undernourished people who consume >100 million tons of wheat per year. The identification of genes conferring resistance to blast and the development of new resistant wheat varieties is essential to counter this threat.
The wild ancestors of domesticated wheat represent a rich source of genetic variation with huge potential for improving disease resistance. Identification and manipulation of genes underpinning this variation will help to sustainably increase yields and secure global food security.
In this PhD project, you will employ state-of-the-art enabling technologies including RenSeq coupled to association genetics, 'speed breeding' and novel, high-throughput phenotyping approaches to discover, characterise and clone blast resistance genes in wheat and wild wheat relatives. In collaboration with our industrial partner, Limagrain, you will use marker-assisted selection to transfer the identified resistance genes into elite wheat lines for field testing.
Our overarching long-term objective is to understand the genetic basis of wheat blast immunity in wild wheat and engineer this resistance into cultivated bread wheat.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
2059488 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2022 Thomas O'Hara