PhD Scholarship in Canopy Architecture, University of Sydney, Australia

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The Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources in the University of Sydney is calling for expressions of interest from potential PhD candidates, to apply for a PhD scholarship to undertake studies within a new research project: “Canopy architecture of wheat lines contrasting in the ‘tin’ gene: a trait to increase yield under drought?” This project is part of the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) funded Managed Environment Facilities (MEFs) initiative; a pre-breeding research program aimed at increasing the rate of genetic gain in winter cereals grown under water-limited conditions in contrasting environments of the Australian grain belt. The project will begin with a review of the relevant scientific literature guided by the faculty supervisors. The student will learn to use modelling software, and to develop a data set for modelling purposes. Field experiments will be conducted in rural NSW, and in the glasshouse in the Sydney region. The experimental work will inform the design of simulation scenarios. The candidate will explore physiological and architectural traits for their role and benefits in enhancing the adaptation of Australia’s most important cereal crop, wheat, to water-limited growth conditions.

The study will look at the canopy architecture of reduced- and free-tillering (near-isogenic) wheat lines to increase yield under drought. In contrast to their free-tillering counterparts, the reduced-tillering lines posses the ‘tin’ (tiller inhibition) gene. This gene is thought to be advantageous for drought adaptation: soil water otherwise lost for the production of non-productive tillers early in the season may be saved to support grain filling later in the season. Along with the changes in the timing of crop water use, ‘tin’ modifies the canopy architecture. This could improve effciency of sunlight capture and use at canopy closure consequently increasing yield potential. Available +tin and -tin near-isogenic lines will be an ideal model system for quantifying effects of canopy architecture on resource-use efficiency (water, radiation) and yield. Field experimental work in controlled water-stress environments will be complemented by the application of a simulation model describing the three-dimensional (3-D) architecture of the canopy, and that links physiological and structural processes. This Functional-Structural-Plant-Model will be developed to simulate ‘tin’ functions, and answer the question of which architectural type (free- or reduced-tillering) is best adapted to the wide range of seasonal conditions experienced in different agro-ecological environments of the Australian grain belt.

The successful candidate will have a background in basic crop and/or plant physiology, agricultural/biological/environmental sciences, and has a demonstrable interest in mathematical modelling and field experimental work in rural environments.

Amount awarded:
$22,860 per annum (tax exempt), and may be renewed for up to three years.

Application guide:
International students (citizens of Europe, the Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and the Americas) are required to apply for the Endeavour Postgraduate Awards of the Australian Government, which is a competitive, merit-based scholarship program. Applications for the 2012 Endeavour Awards are now open and will close 30 June 2011:

Local students (Australian citizens and permanent residents) should apply directly to Dr Carina Moeller by 30 June 2011. Scholarship rates (APA) for local students are currently $22,860 pa. A merit-based top-up scholarship may be available. For further information on the process and the project, please contact

Dr Carina Moeller,
Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
The University of Sydney
1 Central Ave
Eveleigh NSW 2015
Ph: 0061 (0)2 8627 1053

Closing date: 30 June 2011


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