PhD research topics will address key issues for fruit industry

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Five new PhD studentship topics have been announced which will help address some of the biggest challenges facing the fruit industry.

The topics emphasise the strategic importance of pest and disease management and aim to help ensure UK fruit growers are able to remain competitive in the future.

They will cover spotted-wing drosophila, controlling winter-dormancy, bio-control of brown-rot in stone fruit, using root systems to improve apple quality and the tri-trophic interactions in apple orchards.

UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) announced in November 2016 that they awarded a collaborative training partnership (CTP) grant to a consortium led by Berry Gardens Growers Ltd and NIAB EMR, in partnership with AHDB Horticulture.

Dr Nicola Harrison, crop production systems senior scientist at AHDB, said: “The knowledge generated from these studentships will complement the research and development currently being undertaken by AHDB-funded projects to address priority areas identified by the fruit industry. The studentship programme focuses on important fruit crops in the UK and are crucial to help bring new talent into the industry.”

Dr Xiangming Xu, head of pest and pathogen ecology at NIAB EMR, said: “This pioneering training partnership will provide a platform to train next generation scientists to address scientific challenges faced by UK agri-businesses, from crop production, food quality and supply, through to consumer preference and reducing waste in the supply chain. This flagship research programme for UK horticulture lays a firm foundation for long-lasting collaborations between academia and industry.”

Steve Tones, strategy director at AHDB Horticulture, said: “As we have outlined in our new three-year strategy, a key priority for AHDB Horticulture is to invest in the next generation of industry experts to ensure that we are adding depth and breadth to the industry’s expertise and knowledge. Funding these studentships for the fruit industry is just one of the ways we are setting out to achieve this strategic objective.”

The studentships will start in October 2017.

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