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Improved in-crop monitoring and use of trap-cropping as novel approaches to the integrated pest management of aphid BYDV vectors in winter cereals PhD Studentship (36 months funding)

Crop & Environmental Sciences

Location:  Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB
Salary:  As per advert
Post Type:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours GMT on Friday 21 February 2020
Interview Date:  To be confirmed
Reference:  RD-PHD-43TP


Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) is one of the most widespread and economically damaging viral diseases of crops. BYDV infection is caused by viruses in the family Luteoviridae that result in yield reductions through chlorosis and reduced stress tolerance in crops. Losses vary but in wheat, it is estimated that in untreated crops they average 8%, but may be as high as 60%. It is estimated that without effective controls of BYDV vectors this disease could cost the industry on average £136 million a year in wheat alone. 

Two of the most important vectors of BYDV are Rhopalosiphum padi (bird cherry-oat aphid) and Sitobian avenae (English grain aphid). Until 2018 neonicotinoid seed treatments were widely used to provide control of these virus vectors during crop establishment. Neonicotinoid seed treatments are no longer permitted for use while pyrethroid resistance has been reported for both species of aphid. There is then an urgent need to develop new effective tools with which to manage BYDV vectors in cereal crops. 

Novel tools with which to achieve sustainable management of BYDV vectors may be based on improved understanding of the interactions between cereal crops and BYDV vectors. Host plant selection by these aphids can be divided into: habitat location, host location, host acceptance. Olfactory cues dominate aphid behaviour during the first two stages of host plant selection. It is possible to manipulate aphid behaviour during host plant selection for the purpose of pest management by growing plants with behaviour modifying properties within or around a crop, something commonly referred to as trap cropping. The use of trap cropping has shown potential to be a highly effective method of pest management but has not previously been considered for the management of BYDV vectors. This project takes as its starting point the fact that BYDV vectors show a strong preference for some heritage winter wheat varieties. The successful student will investigate the basis for this observed preference and investigate whether this behavioural response can be exploited for development of sustainable crop protection tools.  

Aims and Objectives

This AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds funded project will investigate host-plant interactions between BYDV vectors and winter wheat in order to develop novel sustainable crop protection tools. To do this the project is divided into three objectives: 1) the project will investigate the potential of using plants that are preferred hosts for BYDV vectors to reduce the numbers of aphids entering the crop; 2) the project will record the responses of natural enemies of BYDV vectors to trap crop and AHDB Recommended Lists varieties to determine the potential of conservation biological control being used in conjunction with trap cropping; 3) the project will identify and exploit the volatile chemicals produced by the highly susceptible heritage winter wheat varieties and those associated with BYDV infection to improve reliability of in-field monitoring of cereal aphids.   

Through this project the student will receive training in entomology, chemical ecology, animal behaviour, agronomy, pesticide application techniques, pesticides and biopesticides, field and laboratory-based experiments and statistical analyses as well as experience of the technical challenges of commercial crop production.

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

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 Viv Slann, Research Students Administrator ( For informal enquiries on the project, applicants may contact the Director of Studies Dr Tom Pope through the staff directory:

The studentship includes tuition, bench and writing up fees and a tax-free stipend at the RCUK 2020-2021 rate.  This rate is not yet published but the rate for 2019-2020 is £15,009.

All applicants must normally have a minimum of an upper second class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in Biology, Zoology, Environmental Studies, Agriculture or related sciences.  Further research experience or a master’s degree is preferable.

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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