PhD (BBSRC iCASE/ PGRO/ Cambridge University):
The PhD seeks to explore strategies to maximise pollination in field beans using breeding for flower characteristics.
Pollination is an essential part of the production of our food supply, with approximately one third of our food resulting from animal insect pollination. Ensuring an adequate supply of pollinators is essential to maintain global food security. However, pollinator populations have declined in many parts of the world, and it is likely that climate change will further uncouple relationships between plants and insects.
Field beans are used as animal feed, providing an important protein supply because they fix nitrogen. Recent reports suggest that pollination service is limiting yields in field beans.
The project will explore strategies for optimising field bean flowers to provide maximum energetic reward to pollinators for minimum foraging energy expenditure. This will have the dual benefit of increasing pollinator attraction to current crops, thus increasing yield, while also supporting wild pollinator populations, thus increasing future pollinator population sizes (and thus future yield).
Using a combination of analytical, molecular genetic and behavioural ecology techniques to explore strategies to enhance pollination, commercially grown line will be screened for variation in pollinator-relevant traits to identify genetic variation of potential use in breeding programmes.
Molecular genetic approaches will be used to explore the development of key traits. Using caged bumblebee facilities variations we identify will be assessed for influence on pollinator behaviour. Any lines that appear to attract additional pollinators or facilitate pollinator handling will be trialed in greenhouses with enclosed bumblebee colonies, to assess the effects on pod and seed set.
Such lines will then be tested in field conditions at PGRO’s field trails sites, to explore yield under natural conditions and to develop strategies for future selective breeding of the UK field bean crop.
Cambridge University BBSRC DTP iCASE Studentship and Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO)
Jake Moscrop -