PhD position: Cucurbit pollination: mechanisms and management to optimise field crop quality and quantity

University of Exeter
Penryn
England

This project focuses on the pollination dynamics of field-grown courgettes (Cucurbita pepo) as a model species for cucurbit crops.  Most cucurbit crops require insect pollination to set fruit, and their production in the UK has been steadily increasing over recent years, due to their increasing popularity as part of a healthy diet. They are high value crops and the quality of each ‘fruit’ is important to market value. To ensure productive and sustainable yields, it is important to understand whether the dynamics of pollination are affecting yield quality of quantity in the UK.

The student will investigate the effectiveness and abundance of insect pollinators in the UK, to determine whether pollination is limiting crop quality or quantity, in collaboration with a grower in Cornwall, P.E.Simmons & Son. In its native range Cucurbita pepo is pollinated by specialised squash bees (Peponapis species) which do not occur in the UK, so this studentship will question how effective our native insects are at pollinating the crops. Ways of improving pollination within field systems will then be explored, for example by considering the introduction of honeybee or bumblebee colonies; or by introducing wild flower strips into the fields.  The results will be directly relevant to those growing cucurbits to ensure sustainable yields, and also to ensure healthy and abundant wild pollinator populations.

 The student will work on field sites in Cornwall.  The successful applicant will have a keen interest in the horticultural industry and in understanding how research can benefit both the growers and the environment.  The project funders (AHDB) expect the student to liaise directly with the horticultural industry more generally during the project, through a series of presentations and reports to the sponsor.

For more details, or to apply, please click here: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/studying/funding/award/?id=1489

Prof. Juliet Osborne
j.l.osborne@exeter.ac.uk
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