Gene editing to improve nitrogen fixation and crop productivity

FUNDING: 9 weeks (full time, 37 hrs per week, £11.03 per hour, £530 consumables)
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LOCATION: Sheffield, UK

Dr. Jessica Dunn, Biosciences, Sheffield

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Synthetic nitrogen fertilisers are critical for crop productivity and global food security but their production is energy intensive and is contributing to the climate crisis. Legumes, such as beans, are protein-rich food crops and are highly sustainable crops because they form symbiotic partnerships with nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria (rhizobia) in root nodules. Our recent work, in collaboration with Dr Chater at Kew Gardens, has identified a family of signalling peptides that may encourage nodule development. We aim to use this new knowledge to investigate legume-rhizobial symbiosis with the aim of enhancing nodule development and crop nitrogen fixation. The student will investigate whether gene editing of the peptide genes can affect the number or size of nodules on the roots of whole soybean plants. DNA will be extracted from plants and sequenced to select the most interesting gene edited soybean lines. These will be inoculated with rhizobium to induce nodulation, and assessed using electron microscopy and acetylene reduction assays. The student will join an active research group and use a variety of genetic, physiological and biochemical techniques. Students will be expected to present their findings orally at a research day in York in September 2023.