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Department of Plant Sciences



Supervisor: Alex Webb (Plant Sciences

Professor Webb is happy to discuss projects in detail with potential applicants.


Wheat is the UK’s largest crop by area. To meet the future needs of the UK, new germplasm must be identified that can be used in breeding programmes to adapt to increased demand and the change in local growing seasons resulting from climate change. The circadian oscillator is a regulator of the seasonal responses of wheat and therefore there is a need to understand to the basic biology of the circadian system in wheat to inform breeding strategies. Our new data suggest that the circadian oscillator of wheat has a different structure to that of Arabidopsis and that variation at circadian loci can affect to yield traits in the field. We have isolated over the last few years a population of wheat plants with mutations in the different genes that form part of the circadian oscillator. These mutants have shown that the molecular basis of the circadian oscillator in wheat is different to that in Arabidopsis. Particularly the ELF3 clock protein has a different role in wheat. In this project you will investigate why the structure of the circadian clock is different in wheat, you will determine the function of the ELF3 protein in the circadian clock of wheat, understand how the different structure of the circadian clock in wheat affects circadian function and quantify the contribution of circadian clock genes and circadian function to yield traits in wheat in the field.