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Repeat flowering in blueberries

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.

Details

Academic background
Sciences
Host campus
Dunedin
Qualification
PhD
Department
Biochemistry
Supervisors
Dr Lynette Brownfield, Dr Sara Montanari, Dr Susan Thomson

Overview

At Plant and Food Research (PFR) we are working on developing science and technologies for the sustainable production of fruits and vegetables in controlled environment facilities. This objective is part of the PFR Growing Futures™ direction Horticulture Production goes Urban – Hua ki te Ao (HGU). To move towards an indoor sustainable growing system we need to breed for cultivars with a combination of specific traits that are not currently available or required for outdoor production. Within HGU, the programme Traits For Life Indoors aims at identifying and understanding the key genes and genetic changes required to generate perennial fruiting plants suitable for indoor growing environments. Recurrent flowering is one of the main traits that we are studying, and it is the subject of this PhD project proposal.

Research project

The overall objective is to identify genes that control recurrent flowering in perennial crops and understand their regulatory networks and the environmental stimuli they depend on. One of the two species we are studying to answer these questions is blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), where a few cultivars are known to show repeat flowering (RF), i.e. a second bloom that occurs in late summer/early autumn, reportedly from floral buds that had formed on the new vegetative growth in spring and apparently without any chilling requirement.

The PhD project will involve a multi-omics approach to study RF in blueberry. The PhD candidate will be responsible for performing a time-series analysis of floral buds in RF and non-RF genotypes using RNAseq and metabolomics. They will also be carrying out GxE experiments, by phenotyping RF in replicated samples across two environments. There will also be an opportunity to be involved in work to isolate genes underlying the RF trait. The PhD candidate will be part of a team considering multiple traits for optimal growth in indoor growing environments, and will have the opportunity to incorporate their work in a greater understanding of plant developmental genetics for the crops of our future.

Skills to be acquired

The PhD candidate will acquire strong expertise in big data analysis, multi-omics, bioinformatics and statistics. Knowledge in phenology will also be developed through phenotyping.

Location

The plant material and the molecular biology laboratory are located at the PFR site of Motueka while the chemistry laboratory is located at the PFR site of Lincoln. Dr Sara Montanari is based at PFR Motueka and she will be supervising the student for sample collection, molecular biology and GxE experiments and Dr Susan Thomson is based at PFR Lincoln will supervise the student for bioinformatics analysis of multi-omics data. The location and movements of the PhD candidate between these two sites can be discussed. The PhD candidate will be enrolled at the University of Otago, where they will be supervised by Dr Lynette Brownfield and have opportunities to undertake in short courses and other professional development sessions.

Academic supervisor:

  • Dr Lynette Brownfield


Co-supervisors at Plant and Food Research:

  • Dr Sara Montanari
  • Dr Susan Thomson

Contact

Dr Lynette Brownfield
Email   lynette.brownfield@otago.ac.nz