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Reference CTP-SAI-073

The potential of naturally occurring, heritable, mutualistic ‘persistent’ viruses to enhance legume performance

Reference CTP-SAI-073

The potential of naturally occurring, heritable, mutualistic ‘persistent’ viruses to enhance legume performance

Professor John Carr (Cambridge University)
Roger Vickers(PGRO)


If persistent viruses genuinely improve bean productivity or stress resilience, incorporating them into new lines via conventional crossing would provide breeders with a simple, environmentally friendly crop enhancement approach that could benefit growers and consumers. However, if persistent viruses prove to be deleterious to crop performance in some cases, it would be straightforward to screen them out during breeding, and meanwhile established lines could be ‘cured’ of these viruses. The work will also provide a picture of the prevalence of seedborne viruses in bean lines.


1. Identify Vicia faba lines carrying seedborne viruses including persistent viruses using reverse transcription and where needed, high-throughput sequencing methods.

2.Investigate the effects of persistent viruses on V. fabacharacteristics. The primary approach will use molecular virological approaches to produce genetically identical lines with and without persistent virus infection. This will enable testing of the hypothesis that these inherited viruses are beneficial.


The student will be registered with and based at the University of Cambridge Department of Plant Sciences.


Students will have access to training in key bioscience areas (bioinformatics, statistics and mathematics, plant molecular virology) to enhance employability and research capability.

The CTP – SAI ( is a groundbreaking partnership between leading businesses, charities and research providers offering outstanding training for the agri-food sector

All CTP-SAI students will receive the Leadership and Management training provided by MDS ( and will create their Personal Development Plan (PDP) to identify their development needs and areas of strength. Each student will receive individual coaching and mentoring with regards to their career plans and skills development (in addition to the scientific project supervision).


Placements are a key feature of CTP and UKRI-BBSRC expects all doctoral candidates on a CTP programme to undertake a placement. Placements can be in the form of research placements (3-18 months duration) or used more flexibly for experiential learning of professional skills for business and/or entrepreneurship. All placements are developed in collaboration between the partners with input from the doctoral candidate.


Contact ( for an informal discussion on the research content of this PhD.

This studentship will begin in October 2024. The successful candidate should have (or expect to have) an Honours Degree (or equivalent) with a minimum of 2.1 in Plant Science, Applied Statistics, or other related science subjects. Students with an appropriate Masters degree are particularly encouraged to apply.

We welcome UK, EU, and international applicants. Candidates whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. Candidates should check the requirements for each host organization they are applying to, but IELTS 6.5 (with no component below 6.0) or equivalent is usually the minimum standard.

This studentship is for four years and is fully funded in line with UKRI-BBSRC standard rates. These were for 2023/24, an annual maintenance stipend of £18,622, fee support of £4,596, a research training support grant of £5,000 and conference and UK fieldwork expenses of £300.

To be classed as a home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency      requirements), or

  • Have settled status, or

  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency      requirements), or

  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an international student and must demonstrate the ability to meet the supplement in fees required for an international student.

Anyone interested should complete the online application form before the deadline of 7th January 2024. Interviews will be held during January 2024.

Please contact for further application details.

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NIAB logo transparent background_edited.jpg
NIAB logo transparent background_edited.jpg
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