New Potato Council studentships ensure future research capability in the potato sector

22nd Apr 2013

As part of the new look AHDB studentship scheme to be launched this summer, Potato Council has announced that it will fund four studentships starting in Autumn 2013. Addressing industry priorities as outlined inthe Potato Council’s R&D strategy 2012-15, the aim of the studentship scheme is to produce original research, leading to benefits to the potato industry. Crucially the scheme intends to deliver high calibre, practically-minded individuals who are able to work in either commercial or academic arenas.


Dr Mike Storey, Potato Council’s Head of R&D said ‘This new scheme is a significant commitment by the GB potato industry to support the training of new PhD researchers. They will have the scientific knowledge and technical skills needed to address the challenges faced by the industry in the future and provide practical solutions.’


The four studentships will address a range of challenges relevant to the potato industry:


Characterisation of Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN)populations in GB for sustainable crop management (Harper Adams University)

Understanding PCN populations is of paramount importance to the selection of appropriate management methods. This study will involve a PCN survey in GB to gain a better understanding of populations and their virulence will explore and develop various methods for estimating egg viability before validating the most promising control methods under field conditions. The findings of this work will enable the development of resistant varieties. Harper Adams University – Dr Matthew Back


Application of association mapping and genomic sequencing to starch and glycaemic index (GI) in potato (James Hutton Institute)

The need to find potatoes of reduced GI is required to address consumer needs and an emerging market opportunity. This project will provide new insights into factors that influence GI in potatoes and may lead to the identification of key genes as well as development of diagnostic markers for starch qualities and ultimately new varieties with improved GI characteristics. James Hutton Institute – Dr Mark Taylor


Improved potato late blight management using sophisticated models of pathogen infection and spread (James Hutton Institute)

Effective and timely control of late blight relies on accurate prediction of the survival, infection and spread of the pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, within and between crops. GB growers rely on Smith Periods, which describes a range of conducive environmental conditions. However, current evidence including previous Potato Council funded work suggests that the criteria should be updated to provide a better predictor of blight risk. The system will be made applicable to day-to-day management decisions which are appropriate for implementation on a GB scale. James Hutton Institute – Dr David Cooke, Dr Peter Skelsey


Understanding mechanisms and identifying markers for the onset of senescent sweetening (Natural Resources Institute)

The storage potential of potatoes destined for processing is often terminated prematurely by the unpredictable onset of senescent sweetening. The condition is characterised by a rise in the content of reducing sugars, which results in a darkening in chips and crisps and a heightened risk of acrylamide formed as part of the Maillard reaction. There is a lack of information relating to the underlying biochemical mechanism that leads to senescent sweetening and there is an need to develop better predictive methodologies to aid growers and processors. The project will use crops with different propensities to develop senescent sweetening, to generate tubers of different maturities at harvest. Changes in sugars, structural carbohydrates, texture and mineral content will be evaluated at harvest and during storage. Natural Resources Institute (NRI) – Dr Richard Colgan


Candidates interested in applying for a studentship should contact the research organisations directly.


Dr Storey said ‘The four successful studentships were chosen after careful consideration by Potato Council’s research and knowledge transfer committee. They most impressed in terms of technical quality and objective, facilities and supervision, industry engagement and benefit to industry.’


‘We look forward to working with the institutions and supervisors in recruiting high quality candidates, and providing support throughout the period of the studentships.’


Potato Council intends to fund studentships on an annual basis as part of the AHDB scheme. The next studentship call will be in June 2013.

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