Investigating the use of double stranded (ds)RNA for crop pathogen control

FUNDING: 10 weeks (full time, 37 hrs per week, £12 per hour, £850 consumables, £500 student accommodation bursary)
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Maria Pattichis, Biology, York

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Botrytis cinerea is a prolific necrotrophic fungal pathogen that can infect over a 1000 species of plants, including many crops both pre- and post-harvest, causing upwards of $10 billion in crop losses, annually. Due to its genetic plasticity, it is hard to control, but silencing genes important to the virulence of the pathogen using dsRNA has emerged as a sustainable method to control the spread of the pathogen without the use of harmful fungicides. Previous work in the Denby lab has led to the creation of a network model to predict key hubs in the regulation of B. cinerea virulence. Using this model, dsRNA has been used to reduce the virulence of the pathogen on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. To further this work, the student will test whether these dsRNAs have the same efficacy on economically important crops. The student will gain molecular biology skills in the synthesis and use of dsRNA and qPCR, as well as developing plant and microbiology skills. This project is suitable for students with an interest in sustainable agriculture and food security. Students will be expected to present their findings orally at a research day in York in September 2024.