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From plant science to field crops – manipulating individual plant growth in-field to reduce crop variability and wastage

Research Office

Location:  Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB
Salary:  As per advert
Post Type:  Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed Term - Up to 40 months
Closing Date:  23.59 hours GMT on Friday 12 February 2021
Reference:  RD-PHD-48JMM-R

From plant science to field crops – manipulating individual plant growth in-field to reduce crop variability and wastage.

PhD Studentship (36 month funding and 4 months industrial placement) April 2021 start.

Supervisors Prof Jim Monaghan and Prof Peter Kettlewell 


Variability in the growth of high value leafy vegetable crops such as lettuces or brassicas leads to variation in weight and maturity at harvest.  While breeders have made significant advances in reducing the genetic components of intra-plant variation, the lack of uniformity in the growing environment significantly affects relative plant growth rates.  Imaging technology e.g. UAV mounted cameras, is now being routinely used to quantify individual plant size across a field.  This opens up the potential to manage small numbers of plants and deliver bespoke treatments to them.  

The student will utilise their knowledge of plant physiology to develop and evaluate novel localised treatments that manipulate plant development i.e. hasten, slow or pause plant growth. This work will help to reduce waste in crop production by increasing the proportion of the crop that can be harvested.  

Project aims

·Identify treatments to alter relative growth rates of plants from seedling to maturity.

  • Establish the underlying physiological basis of the treatment(s). 

·Demonstrate the practical application of growth rate manipulation in lettuce and brassica crops.

This project will give the student training and experience in plant physiology, agronomy, soil and crop assessments and spatial statistical analyses as well as experience of the technical challenges of commercial crop production.

The project is funded by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, G’s Growers Ltd and Barfoots of Botley Ltd and involves two months on placement at each of the industry partners during the study period.  

Applications should be made through the HAU website: where further details of the project can also be found.

The deadline for uploading completed applications is 5 pm UK time on Friday, 12 February 2021. 

Further information can be found on the HAU website at and on the research training provided and PhD progression requirements in the Postgraduate Research Students Handbook at:

For informal enquiries on general aspects of research degrees at HAU, applicants may contact Mrs Heather Hogan ( For informal enquiries on the project, applicants may contact the Director of Studies Prof Jim Monaghan through the staff directory:

The studentship includes tuition, bench and writing up fees and a tax-free stipend at the current RCUK rate (£15,560 per annum).

All applicants must have a minimum of an upper second class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in Agriculture, Plant Biology, Environmental Studies or related sciences or an MSc degree in the same areas.  A good working knowledge of statistics and statistical analysis software is also required. 

A minimum level of competency in English is required. Where necessary, applicants need to be classed as an overall IELTS grade 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component.  Please see the following link with regard to English Language requirements:

Further details:    Job description    
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Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education Institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector.

With 2800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams is the UK's largest single provider of higher education for these subjects.  Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange

Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. Its current graduate employment rate is 98% (the joint top rating in England) and student satisfaction stands at 93% (National Student Survey 2017).

Harper Adams is ranked as the UK’s Best Modern University by the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018; was named University of the Year in the 2016 and 2017 Whatuni Student Choice Awards and holds a Gold (highest level) award from the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework.

In 2018 Harper Adams University will receive the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education, part of the UK honours system.

Applied research is at the heart of the university’s activity, with the work of a thriving academic community underpinning both teaching and work with the industries allied to Harper. The 2014 Government Research Excellence Framework rated all of the university’s research as “of international quality”, and more than half was deemed “world leading” or “internationally excellent”. 



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