Strategies for Increasing Crop Stress Tolerance

University of Manchester

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Project Description

Humanity is facing a growing food crisis – the “perfect storm” of growing world populations and changing climates mean we urgently need to increase crop productivity, including by increasing environmental stress tolerance. Photosynthesis is in the front line for plant stress responses, being both the driver for growth and uniquely sensitive to environmental conditions.

The aim of this project is to explore ways in which the stress tolerance of crops can be increased, by breeding for traits observed in stress-tolerant wild plants. Plants defend themselves against environmental stress by either short term regulation of photosynthesis (especially inducing photoprotective mechanisms) and through longer term acclimation responses, adjusting the composition of the leaf to optimise growth in particular conditions.

In this project, you will examine the interactions between regulation and acclimation of photosynthesis in response to environmental stress, using barley as model system. The project will exploit the availability of an extensive collection of barley landraces from across Europe and the Middle East. You will have access to extensive newly constructed controlled environment greenhouse facilities to grow different landraces and will identify key traits responsible for varying degrees of stress tolerance. Susceptibility to stress will be assessed using physiological and biochemical approaches. Associated genetic differences will be characterised using molecular genetic approaches

Funding Information

Band 2 – Environmental – £31500 Overseas students only


Herrmann H.A., Dyson B.C., Vass L., Johnson G.N. and Schwartz J.M. (2019) “Flux sampling as a powerful tool to study metabolism under changing environmental conditions” NPJ Systems Biology and Applications, 5, 32
Stepien P. and Johnson G.N. (2018) “Plastid terminal oxidase requires translocation to the grana stacks to act as a sink for electron transport” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 115 9634-9639
Miller M.A.E., O’Cualain R., Selley J., Karim M.F., Knight D., Hubbard S. and Johnson G.N. (2017) “Dynamic Acclimation to High Light in Arabidopsis thaliana Involves Widespread Reengineering of the Leaf Proteome”. Frontiers in Plant Science doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.01239
Dyson B.C., Miller M.A.E., Feil R., Rattray N., Bowsher C.G., Goodacre R., Lunn J.E. and Johnson G.N. (2016) “FUM2, a cytosolic fumarase, is essential for acclimation to low temperature in Arabidopsis thaliana”. Plant Physiology 172, 1818-127
Johnson G.N. and Stepien P. (2016) “Plastid Terminal Oxidase as a Route to Improving Plant Stress Tolerance: Known Knowns and Known Unknowns” Plant and Cell Physiology, 57 1387-1396.

To apply for this PhD, please use the following application link: