PhD researchers shared their findings at a PhD symposium held on 8 April at Harper Adams University in Shropshire.
Organised jointly between the Potato Council and HGCA, the symposium attracted eighteen PhD students presenting their current work, which is unpicking some of the biggest challenges faced by farmers and processors in the UK.
Soil is a popular area for new research with four students just starting projects involving soil, including work on the potato cyst nematode, wheat rooting and the life cycle of saddle gall midge. The soil borne wheat disease – Take-all – also featured with a poster from Sarah-Jane Osborne of Nottingham University and a presentation on ‘Beyond the PhD’ from Dr Vanessa McMillan of Rothamsted Research, who completed her project 18 months ago and now leads the Take-all research team.
Future proofing the industry was a key message from Graham Finn, Policy Advisor-Agriculture for McCain Foods and a Potato Council Skills Champion. Graham gave a passionate presentation on challenges agriculture will face which will bring opportunities for the next generation. In his discussion on the drive to achieve food security he stressed the necessity to have robust high quality science and transferable skills
End user quality was a common theme. Regiane Scharf focused on new ways to mitigate bruising throughout the potato supply chain, an issue that costs industry c£26m year. Lara Hilley highlighted the opportunity for the potato industry to develop and breed varieties with increased health benefits. With the publication of the potato genome sequence, Lara hopes to identify desirable traits that will lead to varieties with lower GIs.
Another Rothamsted based student, Izzadora Andrew, has been working on how different cereal varieties compete with black-grass. She has examined how factors such as height, leaf length and tillering affect overall competitiveness. Cereal diseases also featured with Louise Gamble, Tijana Stancic and Christopher Judge presenting work on Rhynchosporium, Fusarium and Septoria.
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