There’s more to crops than simply what’s in their genome.
At a time when genome sequencing is the big thing, it might seem that genetics is the place to be. However a new frontier is opening in plant sciences with the study of epigenetics. Epigenetics offers insights into how organisms develop beyond the effects of their DNA. This is a particular concern for plant scientists. Changes in epigenetic gene regulation are a major cause for trait variation, but so far no one has found a way to use this for crop breeding.
The challenge is being met by the Marie Curie International Training Network, headquartered at the University of Amsterdam, which has set up the EpiTRAITS Training program. EpiTRAITS will train researchers in epigenetic gene regulation and flowering in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the crop plants maize (Zea mays) and barley (Hordeum vulgare). The interdisciplinary programme will help them to become both leaders in epigenetics and be familiar enough with technologies in other disciplines to apply their expertise elsewhere. Not only will the trainees become scientific pioneers, they’ll also become entrepreneurs in the field. They’ll have the skills to present their work and highlight the commercial applications of their research.
This obviously requires quite a network for training and EpiTRAITS is in the happy position of being able to combine positions at leading home labs with public and private sector internships around Europe. There are 11 PhD and 3 Postdoc positions available. You can download a word document with details about the various positions.
If you’re interested you should visit www.epitraits.eu to register your application. The deadline is October 8.
Photo by Nezih Durmazlar. Licensed under a Creative Commons BY licence.
Climate warming shifts the timing of seed germination
Despite the considerable number of studies on the impacts of climate change on alpine plants, there have been few attempts to investigate its effect on regeneration. Mondoni et al. consider altitudinal variation of temperature as a surrogate for future climate scenarios and expose seeds to 12 different cycles of simulated seasonal temperatures in the laboratory, derived from measurements at the soil surface of the study site on a glacier foreland. They conclude that climate warming will lead to a shift from spring to autumn emergence and that the extent of this change across species will be driven by seed dormancy status. Emergence in autumn could have major implications for species currently adapted to emerge in spring.