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Ancient grain for modern times: Diversity of naked barley for human health and agroecology.

Research Office

Location:  Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB
Salary:  As per advert
Post Type:  Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed Term - Up to 36 months
Closing Date:  23.59 hours GMT on Sunday 05 December 2021
Reference:  RD-PHD-56-ED

Ancient grain fort modern times: Diversity of naked barley for human health and agroecology.

Location: Newport, Shropshire, TF10 8NB

Post Type: Full Time

Contract Type: Fixed Term (three years)

Closing Date: 5th December 2021

PhD Studentship (three years)

Agriculture and Environment Department 

Project Background:

Naked barley (also known as hull-less barley) has been grown and eaten for thousands of years, but has been largely forgotten in Europe, even though the grain offers solutions to current challenges of poor diet and unsustainable food systems. Naked barley contains β-glucan, a soluble fibre with a range of human health benefits, including reducing the risk of type-2 diabetes. Naked barley also requires lower inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides than wheat and suits more diverse agroecology-based systems, including intercropping.  However, we need to identify varieties with desirable traits to find ways to optimise growing systems before widespread uptake will be possible. This project will identify accessions of naked barley with desirable traits and explore the physiology contributing to these traits in a cereal legume intercropping production system. 

The PhD will form part of CROPDIVA (Climate Resilient Orphan Crops for Increased Diversity in Agriculture). 


  1. To grow, in field conditions, 400 different accessions of naked barley from around the world (from the IPK gene bank), to identify those with the most desirable agronomic and nutritional traits (e.g. disease resistance, β-glucan).
  2. To select a subset of naked barley accessions to grow and test their viability in intercropping systems. 
  3. To understand the physiological mechanisms that underly the desired agronomic and nutritional traits in order to inform future breeding for sustainable food systems. 


This project will give the student skills and experience in research methods relating to agroecology, crop biodiversity, crop improvement and agronomy as well as experience of the technical challenges relating to commercial crop production.


This research studentship is available at Harper Adams University (HAU) in the Agriculture and Environment Department. The project is funded by the European Union Horizon2020 programme.

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 Sunday 5 December 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 Emma Hancox ( For informal enquiries on the project, applicants may contact the Director of Studies: Dr. Edward Dickin

The studentship includes tuition, bench and writing up fees and a tax-free stipend at the current RCUK rate (£15,609 per annum).

All applicants must have a minimum of an upper second-class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in Agriculture, Biology, Ecology, Environmental Studies, or related areas. An MSc degree in the same areas is desirable. A strong interest / background in crop production and agroecology are essential. Additionally, knowledge of farming systems would be an advantage.  A good working knowledge of statistics and statistical analysis software is also required.  

The studentship is only available to UK students.

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 around 2,800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams University 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. The University has been the highest performing modern university in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for the last four years, climbing to 17th place in the overall league table. In the 2020 guide Harper Adams was named Modern University of the Year and runner-up University of the Year. In the 2019 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards, based on student reviews, Harper Adams won the Student Support category for the fifth time – the only university to have taken the title since the awards began - and won the category for best job prospects for a fourth year running. In the 2020 QS World Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry published in March 2020, Harper Adams was ranked first in the UK for academic reputation and second in the world for its reputation with employers.

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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