Climatic stress effects on wheat: the role of diversity

Extended flowering in wheat has the potential to reduce the effects of climatic stress on grain set in wheat. This hypothesis will be tested in the field during this placement using a range of wheat genotypes that will be stressed at specific stages during the crop lifecycle.

Department: Department of Agriculture

Supervised by: Dr Hannah Jones

The Placement Project

Wheat is a predominantly self-pollinating plant, but at least 10% of flowers are pollinated from pollen coming from elsewhere (1). Environmental stress such as high temperature damages pollen development and significantly shortens the lifespan of pollen once released. The female reproductive organs are more stress-tolerant, resulting in a risk of grain set failure as a result of a deficit of viable pollen (2). This placement will test the hypothesis that long-duration flowering is an appropriate strategy for reducing the effect of environmental stress, thereby exploiting the within crop cross-pollination potential. Extended flowering time can be achieved through a combination of genes which control the time of flowering (photoperiod sensitivity, vernalisation and earliness per se genes) (3). The student will study single varieties and a genetically diverse wheat population in a replicated field trial at the Crop Research Unit at Sonning. The crops will be heat and drought stressed at defined intervals during floral development. The student placement will be part of a team effort, offering the student an opportunity to gain extensive practical and methodological support in the field and in the laboratory, as well as experience the state of the art crop research. The data generated by the placement will complement a 4 year BBSRC responsive mode project which focuses in increasing the environmental resilience of UK wheat through greater flowering diversity. (1) Lukac, M. Gooding, M. J., Griffiths, S., Jones, H. E. (in press) Asynchronous flowering and within-plant flowering diversity in wheat and the implications for crop resilience to heat. Annals of Botany (2) Saini, H. S., Aspinall, D. (1982) Abnormal sporogenesis in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) induced by short periods of high temperature. Ann Bot 49: 835-846 (3) Snape, J. W., Butterworth, K., Whitechurch, E., Worland, A. J. 2001. Waiting for fine times: genetics of flowering time in wheat.Euphytica 119(1-2): 185-190


Field and laboratory assessments of: flowering activity and duration, water stress (using porometers), climatic stress (soil, canopy and ambient measurements), grain yield and the components therein. The student will learn and carry out data analysis using a range of statistical models.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

An interest in the effect of climate change on food production in the UK. A basic understanding of agricultural crops with a particular focus on wheat. An enthusiasm to work in the field as part of a team, and an ability to manage their own time. Basic understanding of data analysis

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will develop research skills not only in the practical aspects of field research, but also in the application of scientific theory to experimental work. The student will be taught the principles of genetic control of flowering time in wheat and the physiology of flowering diversity in cereals. The placement will develop interpersonal skills, including team work, communication, and time management through close collaboration with an established ‘crops and climate change’ research team.

Place of Work

Crops Research Unit (CRU: Sonning), and Seed Science Lab (SSL: Agricultural Building)

Hours of Work

7.5 hours per day

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 02 July 2012 - Friday 10 August 2012

How to Apply

Cover letter and CV to be submitted to Hannah Jones, applicants will subsequently be shortlisted for interview after the closing date.

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