BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership

BARIToNE is a £3.6m BBSRC and industry-funded six-year Collaborative Training Partnership led by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute and supported by the James Hutton Institute and the universities of Dundee and Nottingham.

BARIToNE: Barley Industrial Training Network is a £3.6m BBSRC and industry-funded six-year Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP) providing support for 30 PhD researchers and led by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. It focuses on the medium-long term challenge of maintaining a sustainable supply of local high-quality barley, produced using fewer inputs and having fewer environmental impacts. It will provide state of the art research training through close academic associations with the International Barley Hub (IBH) and innovation through industry-relevant research. It is focused on research excellence as a vehicle to ensure the long-term sustainability of barley supply and value chains.

The BARIToNE CTP brings together academic and commercial partners to offer high-quality collaborative research projects across all areas of the barley supply chain. All participants have a strong desire for their products to be carbon neutral and are keen to support initiatives that reduce environmental impacts across all sectors of the supply and value chain.

The principal focus of this industry-led collaborative training partnership is therefore on driving down the environmental footprint of primary production while maintaining a sustainable supply of high-quality barley.

Round 2 of applications for 2023 entry are now open

Please complete our pre-application here.

Pre-applicationBARIToNE Booklet

BARIToNE 2023 studentship opportunities

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr Hazel Bull, Syngenta, UK

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Luke Ramsay, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee

Additional Supervisors – Dr Kelly Houston, the James Hutton Institute, Dundee;

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will register at University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Dundee, Syngenta, and the James Hutton Institute.

In this project you will investigate the impact of climate variation on barley using modern genetic and genomic techniques.  Your work will focus on malting quality for beer and whisky in a current breeding programme, in particular the effect of environmental heat stress during plant and grain development.  This project will use controlled environment and glasshouse work, and field trials in a combined physiological/genetic study to identify the traits that confer climatic robustness and the genetic variants that control them.  This investigation will dissect the effect on malting quality using the IBH micromalting lab on the JHI site and facilities in Syngenta.  This malting work will focus on the known complex interactions of malting quality with environment and genetic background whilst concentrating on elite material with desirable malting quality.  This aspect of the project includes the opportunity for more detailed studies into the effect of climatic variables on deposition of starch and other polysaccharides in the grain, and the subsequent impact on malting quality.

Applications are encouraged from students with an interest in plant genetics and modern plant breeding.  The PhD offers considerable training opportunities including placements with industry.


Due to climate change the variability in annual weather patterns is increasing.  In the 2020/21 growing season average UK spring temperatures were high, outside the 30-year range and in the 2021/22 harvest record summer temperatures were recorded. Climate models suggest these fluctuations and extremes are likely to continue and indeed worsen.  There is a clear impact of these environmental stresses on crop yield and yield components, but also on malting quality. Malting is an industrial process and relies on an intake of a uniform quality barley crop for efficient and homogenous processing. These fluctuations in climate present a significant challenge to the malting industry and the barley supply chain.  However, there is evidence that the malting quality of some barley varieties appears to be more robust to climate variation than others. This indicates that there is the opportunity to breed barley varieties that retain malting quality across a range of future climate scenarios.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Prof Katherine Smart, DIAGEO, Edinburgh

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Tracy Valentine, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee

Additional Supervisors – Prof Adrian Newton, the James Hutton Institute, Dundee;

Dr Davide Bulgarelli, University of Dundee, Dundee

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will register at University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Dundee, DIAGEO, and the James Hutton Institute

Agriculture is under enormous pressure to increase crop yield and quality for food, feed and other products, while reducing its’ carbon footprint. The James Hutton Institute and University of Dundee offer a 4-year fully funded PhD studentship to determine barley traits adapted to sustainable crop production. This research project will be conducted in partnership with Diageo and will offer the opportunity to undertake an extra industrially relevant qualification, alongside valuable industrial experience during a hosted placement within a Technical Division of Diageo. Barley is a critical crop for the brewing and distilling industry where Diageo is a leading player in the food & drinks sector. Barley is also an important component of animal feed.

While high-yielding varieties selected to maximise their responses to non-renewable inputs, intense soil management and monoculture have guaranteed profitable yields over the past 60 years, it is now clear that their environmental impact will be unsustainable in 21st century agriculture. Conceptually novel varieties, tailored to the so called low-carbon agronomy are therefore needed to ensure global food security. Chief in achieving this ambitious objective will be identifying genetically determined traits, underpinning barley’s adaptation to the soil environment. We hypothesis that root traits (e.g. architecture, hairs & exudates) are associated with adaptation to low carbon systems ( and plants’ responses are integrally linked in a feedback loop to soil characteristics (e.g. microbiota) and soil resources (e.g. nitrogen, soil carbon)

Research will start with literature reviews (incl. meta-analysis), to extract barley genotypes and germplasm with differential responses to tillage in different soils, potential root traits of interest, soil impacts (inc. soil history, environment/climate etc.), and methodologies for rapid screens (Obj1). Rapid variety screens will calibrate traits against key soil physical and health traits (e.g. structure, sand/loam composition, nutrient levels) using traditional and imaging technologies (Obj2). These will be followed by plot field trials under differential tillage conditions (Obj3). While, this project will focus on plant traits, soil health characteristics and soil structure will be investigated (e.g. via the Soil Health Card system, water, soil strength & structure, C & N ). Genetic indicators of traits and effects on soil microbiome will be achieved through comparative genomics, metagenomic and transcriptomics profiles of adapted lines and rhizosphere where appropriate (Obj4).

The outcome will be identification of barley traits associated with soil tillage adaptation and their impact on productivity and soil health under low carbon production agronomy which will be valuable for barley breeding and agronomic advice.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Gillian MacDonald, Glenmorangie

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr. Pietro Iannetta, James Hutton Institute

Additional Supervisors – Prof. Graeme Walker & Prof. Daniel Gilmour, Abertay University This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will registered at Abertay University as the degree awarding institution.

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will registered at Abertay University as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2022) by Abertay University, Glenmorangie Distillers, and the James Hutton Institute.

The project aims to identify approaches to reduce the carbon (C) footprint of cereal (barley) production as a model crop species in-line with net-zero targets. Agriculture is a significant contributor to UK and global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and Scotland has committed to reach net-zero C-emissions by 2045. While crop research trials have identified potential approaches to reduce barley C-footprint for distilling, these have not been critically examined.

The studentship will therefore analyse value chain data to identify and account environmental impact indicators that assess the sustainability of barley production methods, and downstream value-chain segments, using life-cycle analysis (LCA). The approach will identify synergistic ‘wins’ in overall emissions reductions, minimising negative trade-offs in other impact-categories.

An initial literature review and expert stakeholder consultation will identify innovations to reduce the C-footprint of barley production. In parallel, a bespoke ‘grain-to-glass’ LCA model will be developed to characterise barley production and processing at Glenmorangie in terms of C-footprint and other environmental impacts. LCA-scenarios will be considered to identify best-case approaches for net-zero barley production and distilling. The approach will draw-upon: Hutton’s extensive datasets of integrated cropping practices; Abertay’s expertise in applied-science of processing for distilling; and includes industry placements with Glenmorangie.

The project presents an excellent opportunity for training in multi-disciplinary skills and techniques including stakeholder elicitation, LCA modelling, data management, and statistical analysis. The project will suit candidates with a data science background who are keen to apply their skills to solve agri-environmental and value-chain challenges using quantitative tools for sustainable development. Partnering with Glenmorangie also offers invaluable experience in translating research for practical application – since LCA-based tools which have emerged as critical to inform sustainable development and research priorities of the business, and the industry more broadly.

Candidates should have a high-class Honours degree (equivalent to 2:1 or above) and/or an excellent postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject. The project benefits from a highly experienced supervisory team, including: Profs Graeme Walker and Daniel Gilmour, Abertay University; Gillian Macdonald and Peter Nelson, Glenmorangie; and, Drs Pietro Iannetta and Colm Duffy, James Hutton Institute. Before applying, we recommend contacting, or, providing a CV and explaining why this project is of interest to you.

rincipal Industrial Supervisor – Mr Allan Logan, Bruichladdich

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Joanne Russell, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee

Additional Supervisors – Dr Tim George, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will register at University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Dundee, Bruichladdich, and the James Hutton Institute.

The value of landraces as a source of untapped genetic diversity for crop breeding is increasingly recognized. This is especially important in the context of climate change and the need to develop resilient and sustainable agronomic systems. Scottish Bere barleys are old landraces that have been grown on the islands and in the highlands of Scotland for centuries. Beres are well-adapted to short growing periods, to nutrient-deficient soils and marginal environmental conditions where modern cultivars fail. They require low fertilizer inputs, making them well-suited for low input agriculture. Interest in utilizing Beres for beer and whisky production has recently increased due to their distinct flavour profile and their marketability as sustainable local Scottish products. However, Beres are low-yielding and prone to lodging which makes harvest challenging. High N content and small grain size pose challenges for the malting process. Therefore, high-yielding genotypes with a combination of good agronomic properties and sufficient malting quality are desirable.

The James Hutton Institute maintains a collection of Beres from different geographic origins and biparental populations from crosses between Beres and elite cultivars. In this project, we aim to thoroughly characterize this material under different growing conditions (Western Isles, Orkney, Dundee) to identify genotypes with desirable traits, to allow genetic mapping of and marker development for these traits and to assess the stability of these traits under different conditions. Genotypes with beneficial traits can be used to a) introgress nutrient efficiency from Beres into elite germplasm and b) develop novel Bere types with improved traits. We propose to test these selected genotypes for trait stability under different climate change scenarios.

The Bruichladdich distillery on Islay has championed the use of Beres in terms of flavour, heritage and terroir. Despite initial setbacks with Bere cultivation on Islay, Bere grain has been sourced from Orkney, resulting in a series of popular Bruichladdich Bere Barley single malts. In 2018, Bruichladdich purchased the adjacent croft and since then have been preparing the ground to revisit the sowing of Beres. With both the collection of Beres as well as the novel introgression germplasm, field trials can be sown and scored for a range of agronomic and malting quality traits.

The student will gain comprehensive experience in genetics, genomics and transcriptomics and will have the opportunity to develop the project according to their own skills and interests. Additionally, they will gain relevant insight into industry through our close collaboration with Bruichladdich.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Jim Booth, SAOS Ltd

Principal Academic Supervisors – Morris Altman,  University of Dundee School of Business

Additional Supervisors – Dr Roy Neilson, The James Hutton Institute

The focus of this project is researching the role agricultural co-ops (member-owned organizations) play in driving change in their networks with a focus on helping their farmer members address the climate challenge.  Education and effective knowledge transfer are a key pillar and one of the seven principles of co-operation in co-op enterprises.

SAOS believe addressing the climate emergency is too large a challenge for any one business to tackle alone, especially SMEs. And that Scotland’s strong agricultural co-ops can be an effective solution to coordinating meaningful change whilst remaining competitive via highly effective co-op farmer member networks.

The co-op model presents a huge opportunity to support farmers address barriers such as limited time and capital, technical change, and information asymmetries. Action to deliver both economic and environmental gains become progressively more difficult as the industry advances through ‘easy wins’ and lower cost solutions. This highlights the value of a more collaborative approach between farmers, to support for example, the adoption and development of new technology or commitment to more capital-intensive investments.  Arguably one of the key roles co-ops provide is the leadership to facilitate and actualize change. For example, the investment by Aberdeen Grain in large-scale biomass driers to decarbon the drying of malting barley grain.

That said, the co-op business model is not well understood in Scotland or the wider UK, despite their long history as a business model, founded in the principles of mutual support, democracy and shared economic benefits. Apart from the commercial returns from being a member, co-ops seek to build social capital and enhance skills that can be vital in building resilience and strengthening rural communities, whilst remaining competitive.

The successful candidate should hold or about to achieve a Business-related qualification/experience.

Awarded BARIToNE 2023 studentship

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr Richard Allan, Chivas Brothers Ltd, Paisley

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Steve Hoad, SRUC, Edinburgh

Additional Supervisors: Dr Tim George, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee; Prof. Bob Rees and

Dr Rachael Ramsey, SRUC, Edinburgh

This project will be based at the SRUC, Edinburgh and the appointed student will register at University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Dundee, Chivas Brothers Ltd, SRUC, and the James Hutton Institute.

Progression to the net zero carbon economy is a major driver across all UK industry sectors. In the barley supply chain – from crop breeding, farming and processing – stakeholders are seeking sector-wide reduction in carbon footprints whilst maintaining barley productivity and product quality. Taking the example of malt whisky production, emissions from barley growing account for almost 40% of the sector’s total carbon release. Whilst processes of malting and distilling, and brewing, have potential to reduce carbon emissions through renewable energy sources, barley growing systems may require several different strategies involving soil management, fertilizer use and agronomy in-order to become more efficient and carbon neutral. The aim of this project is to re-design barley growing systems to support the whole barley supply chain’s transition to the net zero economy.

Working with field experiments under a range of different weather and soil conditions, spring barley growing systems will be dissected as contributions from the genotype (G), environment (E) and management (M) to overall production efficiency and reducing the crop’s carbon footprint. Crop and soil measures based on carbon and nitrogen flow will be coupled with the ‘Agrecalc’ carbon accounting tool to allow the study to quantify G x E x M effects, including a crop’s agronomic value and potential for new management such as reduced or novel fertilizer use. This detailed analysis of the growing system will be linked to the wider barley supply chain through case studies hosted by two BARIToNE commercial partners – Chivas Bothers and Opportunity NE. The Glenlivet Estate case study hosted by Chivas Brothers along with analysis of grain supply and farm demonstration through Opportunity NE will frame outputs from the project. Throughout the research programme, the student will have opportunity to engage with a broader programme of strategic research at SRUC and JHI in agronomy, crop improvement and carbon accounting.

This project which connects farming with crop improvement and grain processing will support BARIToNE’s strategic aim to safeguard the production of local and sustainable high-quality barley. Expected outputs for barley growing systems towards the net zero economy will include guidance to farmers, connectivity in carbon accounting between grain production and end usage, and new crop growing protocols to connect barley growing to plant breeding and variety testing.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr Nicholas Pitts, Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI), Edinburgh

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Craig Simpson, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee

Additional Supervisors – Dr Laurence Ducreux, the James Hutton Institute, Dundee;  Dr Piers Hemsley, the James Hutton Institute, Dundee; Dr Pete Hedley, the James Hutton Institute.

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will register at University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Dundee, SWRI, and the James Hutton Institute.

Do you want to become expert in plant gene editing (GE) and develop the newest range of climate ready crops? GE or precision breeding is a remarkable new tool that is fundamentally different from established conventional breeding and GM methods. Gene-editing edits the target gene directly and precisely within the genome of an elite crop line with no additional genetic material and no increase in gene number. A better understanding of gene editing tools is vitally important to support production of cereal yield, with fewer inputs in the face of a changing climate. This is a 4-year studentship that will allow you to explore and develop cutting-edge GE methods with the opportunity to adapt and develop your own methods of creating new edited changes. Changes will be made in barley that is relevant worldwide to food and drink security. GE is usually used to induce a gene mutation that knocks out the function of the targeted gene with the associated crop benefit. The aim of your studentship will be to select important gene targets, develop different GE methods and develop different methods of delivering the GE machinery to the plant cell allowing for the potential of GE to be fully realised. We have established genomic and transcriptomic datasets that will help select important gene targets. A strong background in molecular biology will help but we have people and facilities at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee that will allow you to develop your skills and identify new novel gene targets. Contact either Craig Simpson ( or Laurence Ducreux ( if you wish to discuss the studentship further.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr Frances Jack, Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI), Edinburgh

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Joanne Russell, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee

Additional Supervisors – Dr Neil Havis, SRUC, Edinburgh

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will register at University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Dundee, SWRI, and the James Hutton Institute.

Across the cereals sector, there is much interest in grain health and the presence of seed borne pathogens, especially in barley for malting. One of the major economic barley diseases in Scotland is Ramularia leaf spot (RLS), caused by the dothidiomycete fungus, Ramularia collo-cygni . This fungus has been shown to reduce grain yield and quality. It also has a seed borne stage in its life cycle. This BARIToNE PhD project builds on previous research by investigating (1) the effect of R. collo-cygni presence in harvested grain on malting and sprit (2) utilising previous genome wide analysis, which identified candidate gene regions associated with field resistance, we will genetically dissect this region using multi-parent populations developed from landraces and an elite cultivar (3) the potential for these crosses to display increased resistance to the pathogen will be validated in controlled condition and field experiments. The project relates strongly to the reduced input theme as RLS control relies on fungicide sprays just before head emergence. To address these three objectives, the project will combine biochemistry, genetics, genomics and field phenotyping in the following experimental approaches:

Biochemical approaches. Micromalting of infected samples to determine malt quality (predicted spirit yield), diastatic power and wort viscosity in grain samples with varying levels of Rcc (including some lines with enhanced tolerance/resistance) . Then alcohol yield, congener profile and flavour profile of spirit produced from that malt. This will provide robust evidence on the impact of the fungus on product quality and also the impact of breeding for resistance on grain quality.

Genetics and genomic approaches. A recent genome wide association analysis has highlighted candidate genes on the barley chromosomes which are associated with disease resistance in field experiments. An analysis will be conducted on a wider panel of genotypes including landrace accessions from a legacy collection, to identify genotypes which carry the candidate genes and develop novel germplasm for validation in controlled and field studies.

Field disease phenotyping and validation approaches. i) Testing predicted resistance. The levels of resistance in the panel of genotypes analysed in part 2 will be tested in controlled conditions and field experiments to determine levels of resistance to symptom expression. ii) Resistant and susceptible lines will be tested for levels of apoplastic leakage and cuticle thickness to determine their potential influence on disease levels.

Throughout the research programme, the student will have opportunity to engage with broader strategic research on crop health and improvement.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr Ronald Daalmans, Chivas Brothers Ltd, Paisley

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Jagadeesh Yeluripati, The James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen

Additional Supervisors – Dr Frances Sandison, The James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen and the appointed student will register at University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Dundee, Chivas Brothers Ltd, and the James Hutton Institute.

In November 2018, the Committee on Climate Change reported that ‘fundamental reform is required to ensure that land becomes a more effective carbon store’ (CCC, 2018), and suggested land use policy must promote radically different uses of UK land to support deeper emissions reductions. Existing carbon trading or payment mechanisms have highlighted the enormous potential for economic levers to deliver Net Zero. Progress made in GHG mitigation and carbon sequestration in agriculture and land use sector is very slow and faces challenges technically due to lack of scalable alternate processes and economically lack of viable customised business models suited for local conditions.

Robust knowledge and tools are needed for policymakers and farmers to ensure future sustainable management of soils, and production of agricultural commodities to meet Net Zero goals. There is a need for credible and reliable measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) platforms, for national reporting, emissions trading and to track progress towards Net Zero, as well as transparency and understanding of GHG emissions along the entirety of product supply chains.

The PhD student is expected to upscale technology developed in RETINA project by dealing with various stakeholders ranging from farmers to private and public sector stakeholders. The student is expected to undertake a case study on the Whisky supply chain, to create carbon footprint models to identify hotspots, potential improvements and viable business models for carbon farming and trading. This PhD will characterize the elements of successful business models, identify market failures, and outline a range of challenges to be overcome to build a commercial case for the private sector for viable carbon trading. The student will build on existing strengths within Hutton developed with recent success (~£2 million investment). This includes the NERC-RETINA project, which developed a functional digital MVR prototype by combining information from field-based sensors, remote sensing, smartphone apps and integration of models to confirm management practice effectiveness on soil carbon and GHG reductions, and the EU-SENSE project.

The project provides excellent opportunities for training in multi-disciplinary skills and techniques spanning agroecology, biogeochemical modelling, statistical analysis, training in High performance computing and knowledge translation that will be highly attractive to future employers. The project will suit candidates with an agriculture/agroecology background interested in working with stakeholders to solve sustainability challenges facing the barley industry. Placements at Chivas Brothers will provide invaluable insights into the practicalities of processing grain for malt and spirits, and an important link to barley growers supplying the whisky industry.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr Jeremy Derory, Limagrain, UK

Principal Academic Supervisors – Prof David Cook, University of Nottingham, UK

Additional Supervisors – Dr Luke Ramsay, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee

This project will be based at the University of Nottingham and the appointed student will register at University of Nottingham as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Nottingham, Limagrain and the James Hutton Institute.

Malting is one of the oldest biotechnologies, but urgently requires innovative approaches to reduce energy and water consumption to deliver long-term sustainability. Steeping is the first step in the malting process and is where the barley grains are submersed in water to increase the moisture content of grains homogeneously and trigger germination. Steeping also acts to clean the grain and remove germination inhibitors. Steeping normally entails using successive wet (under water) and dry stands (‘air rests’), which ensure the grain does not ‘drown’ from continuous immersion, improves germinative vigour and the rate of water uptake overall. Two or three wet steep cycles are commonly employed, which contribute significantly to the maltings water usage (typically 2.5-6 m3/tonne). Each steep utilises around 0.8 m3/tonne (conical bottomed or Eco-steep vessels) or 1.3 m3/tonne (flat bottomed vessels). Thus, the industry is looking towards technologies, raw materials and processes which enable more water efficient steep processes using fewer steeps. Examples of this include the use of ‘pre-steep’ processes in washing screws (0.3 m3/tonne) followed by one ‘main’ steep, or the recently developed ‘Optisteep’ technology. The latter continuously circulates steep water through a 2-stage water purification and oxidation process which enables a faster and continuous 1-wet steep.

We hypothesise that malting barley varieties will react differently under these novel conditions as plant breeders will not have been selecting lines to meet these new criteria. The aim of this project is to identify the best performing lines in these new steeping regimes and to identify genetic markers that can differentiate good and bad performing lines. To achieve this goal, the project will use a diversity panel, comprising mainly spring barley lines, to identify these key loci using genome-wide association studies. The final panel will comprise both old and new varieties and will be selected from a larger set of material that has been assessed for its germination index following steeping. The screen will allow for an investigation of the physiological and genetic characteristics that enable barley lines to germinate homogeneously under these differing water regimes and whether the result of these selection pressures would have positive or negative effects on agronomic performance. The project will be able to investigate whether known QTL for germinative energy, identified in the IMPROMALT project, explain some of the genetic variation or that novel loci are important for this new malting environment.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Ms Tanya Henderson, AB InBEV, USA

Principal Academic Supervisors – Prof David Cook, University of Nottingham, UK

Additional Supervisors – Dr Guillermina Mendiondo, University of Nottingham, UK

This project will be based at the University of Nottingham and the appointed student will register at University of Nottingham as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Nottingham and AB InBev.

Key malt processing quality parameters, like the starch gelatinization temperature, vary with barley variety and harvest year. More knowledge is required regarding the relative significance of genotype, environment and crop management practices in determining starch properties. This project will be conducted in partnership with AB InBev, the world’s largest brewing company, who manufacture one in four of all beers consumed worldwide. There will be an opportunity to gain valuable industry experience during a placement within a Technical Division of AB InBev.

In Year 1, several lines will be grown across two distinct sites to generate samples for initial characterization, training in the required techniques and to provide an initial snapshot of the significance of genotype. In subsequent years selected varieties will be grown in multiple sites both within the UK and globally under controlled conditions selected to evaluate the separate impacts of environment and crop management practices.

Barley samples will be micromalted and characterized for significant parameters related to starch breakdown during mashing, including: nitrogen content, a- and b-amylase activities, starch content, amylose to amylopectin ratio. Thermal properties of the starches will be determined using Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and Rapid Visco Analysis (RVA). Malts will be mashed using industry standard protocols and the resulting wort extract and fermentable sugars spectrum determined. Statistical analyses will determine the relative impacts of genotype, site and management practices on starch properties and function. Desirable traits and practices linked to best performance in brewing will be identified.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr Jonathan Snape, James Hutton Ltd, Dundee

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr Runxuan Zhang, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee

Additional Supervisors – Dr Sarah McKim, the James Hutton Institute, Dundee;

Prof Ping Lin, University of Dundee, Dundee

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will register at University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

This four-year PhD studentship is fully funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership and offered (from Oct. 2023) by University of Dundee, James Hutton Ltd, and the James Hutton Institute.

Automated image-based plant phenotyping allows high throughput quantification of plant traits by analysing images captured by sensors and cameras in controlled environments or in the fields at any defined time interval. Visible light, fluorescent, near infrared, infrared and hyperspectral image can be captured from different viewing angles allowing the construction of 2D and 3D model of plants and their components, e.g. leaves, stems, flowers and spikes etc. Morphological and structure information about the plant, such as plant height and volumetric biomass, as well as physiological changes, such as temperature, water content, as well as the stress levels of leaves thus could be inferred, allowing non-destructive plant phenotyping in a high-throughput manner. Combined with experiments studying biotic and abiotic stresses, these images taken at multiple time points and conditions will illustrate the dynamic changes of the traits providing valuable information, such as the plant growth rate, stem elongation speed and trajectories of leave angle etc, thus providing key data for finding solutions for adaptation to climate change (e.g. drought, waterlogging, pathogen) and reduce the input for agriculture (e.g. fertilizers and pesticides).

Supervised deep learning networks and segmentation algorithms, developed in Prof Lin’s lab, have been successfully applied in dentistry to segment dental scan images, identify tooth types, and measure surgical outcomes using 3D models. We aim to leverage methods, tools, and expertise in Lin’s lab to

In the controlled environment, e.g. using the image station at APGC,
Construct accurate 2D and 3D models for single or a small number of plants using images taken from multiple viewing angles.
Using these models, develop machine learning based automatic systems that allows the detection of different components of the plants, such as leaf, stem, flower, seeds, etc and
provide accurate measurements for a list of comprehensive plant traits such as plant height, leaf size, canopy size and maturation time and derived measures such as seed weights, etc.
Using the drone images and images captured by new robot from JHL, we will improve the algorithms developed for “real life” field condition, field conditions.

Initially the technology will be developed using barley plants as a model, but the algorithm would be generally applicable to other plants. The proposed system will allow more accurate phenotyping with increased resolution and significantly reduced labour costs. This technology will greatly accelerate and enhance breeding of improved crops with beneficial architectural and physiological traits.

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Gillian MacDonald, Glenmorangie

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr. Roy Neilson, James Hutton Institute (JHI)

Additional Supervisors – Dr. Eric Paterson, JHI & Dr. Davide Bulgarelli, University of Dundee

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will registered at the University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution. This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will registered at the University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

The Climate Emergency demands that innovative and effective mitigations are urgently developed to achieve a just transition to Net Zero. There is an increasing focus on how this can be tackled in the agricultural sector, while still maintaining production for a growing global population. This project, co-developed by academic and industry partners, will explore the potential for reducing the environmental impact of barley cultivation for the whisky industry.

Whisky is the single most valuable Food and Drink product in the UK (£5.5Bn in 2020), but the barley cultivation stage contributes approximately 50% of the carbon footprint associated with each bottle produced. In large part, this is a consequence of chemical fertiliser use (both energy costs of manufacture and GHG fluxes from soil following application). Therefore, strategies to reduce use of chemical fertilisers, while maintaining sustainable grain production are urgently needed.

The use of distillery wastes for energy production (biogas) through anaerobic digestion (AD) is already an established means of off-setting carbon costs of whisky manufacture. However, AD itself generates wastes with high-nutrient content (digestates) that have potentially deleterious environmental impacts (e.g. effluent discharges affecting water quality). Therefore, the specific aim of this project is to examine the potential value of AD wastes for use as fertiliser replacements, exploiting their high-nutrient value in barley cultivation and supporting circular economy principles through diversion from waste streams. The research will involve controlled environment and field trials to assess the fertiliser equivalence of AD wastes, quantifying growth and grain quality of malting barley, relative to chemical fertilisers. It is essential that impacts of AD wastes on soil health are neutral or positive, and the project will quantify effects of their application on soil biological diversity and functions. This will include isotopic approaches to quantify carbon and nutrient cycling processes in soils (including GHG fluxes and nutrient leaching), combined with molecular characterisation of microbial /faunal communities to determine associated impacts of AD waste application. Based on results obtained, formulations (e.g., AD effluent in combination with biochar generated from solid waste fractions) will be explored to optimise barley production and to foster long-term sustainability of soil ecosystem services in malting barley production systems.

The project provides a motivated candidate with an exceptional opportunity to contribute to a highly topical research area, and to gain invaluable experience of working in both academic and industry settings, generating research-specific and transferable skills from collaboration with each partner organisation.

If you would like to discuss this project in more detail, please contact for more information.

Awarded BARIToNE 2022 studentship

Industrial Partner SWRI Industrial supervisor Barry Harrison
Academic Partner The James Hutton Institute First Supervisors Will Allwood, Kelly Houston, Tim George

Student George Epaku

Barley is a crop of great importance with respect to both spring malting barley for the renowned Scotch whisky industry, and winter barley for animal feeds. Only high-quality barley from a limited number of varieties is taken forward to malting and distilling, therefore greatly influencing market value.

Barley is regarded as a high-input cereal and therefore contributes significantly to the overall carbon footprint of whiskies and beers. Optimum nitrogen (N) levels promote the enzymatic breakdown of starch in raw grains to sugars during malting. The current solution is the addition of N fertilisers which enhance yield and assure quality. However, the energy costs of producing N fertiliser and an unbalanced N cycle in soils which produces ghg emissions in the form NOx contribute most to the unfavourable environmental footprint. Improving N recovery and utilisation will reduce the need for inputs and reduce pollution (key to the green recovery).

The aim of the PhD will be to assess and improve our understanding of the genetic and metabolic basis of high nitrogen use efficiency and photosynthetic capacity in barley, whilst producing grains with high distilling quality.

Key to barley quality is the capacity to maintain carbon assimilation and export to developing grains under a range of conditions. This requires constant metabolic adjustment in response to environmental variation. A first step towards breeding metabolically resilient barley will be to define the genetic architecture underpinning the optimisation of metabolism. A further objective is to link an understanding of metabolic resilience to key yield and quality traits.
To achieve this, barley populations will be screened for high photosynthetic rates and efficient grain import, under reduced N inputs and with alternative fertilisers (e.g. municipal compost, distillery co- products). This data will be used in a genome wide association study (GWAS) to identify Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) and candidate genes contributing to variation in these traits under different nitrogen conditions. Additionally, the impact of these nitrogen treatments on the metabolome will be determined. Laboratory scale micro-malting, mashing, fermentation and distillation can then be used to produce spirit and assess the impact on alcohol yield and flavour profile. Understanding the genetics and physiology underpinning these traits will provide knowledge, and genetic and metabolic QTL, to aid breeding towards reduced inputs and environmental footprint.

The project offers excellent interdisciplinary training, developing skills in plant growth and phenotyping, genomics, metabolomics, flavour chemistry, and sensory analysis, as well as statistical analysis and modelling.

Industrial Partner Elsoms Ackermann Barley Ltd Industrial supervisor Miroslav Bukan
Academic Partner The James Hutton Institute First Supervisor Tim George (JHI)

Student Alex Cort

With global population set to hit nine billion by 2050 and the resources needed to sustain this population diminishing, unsustainable agronomic practices and environmental change have brought us to the point where a revolution in agricultural production is necessary to ensure future agricultural sustainability. A new generation of crops adapted to environmental change is needed and the key to breeding such crops is the identification and utilisation of genetic variation in yield in marginal environments. Of the traits responsible for this yield variation, those associated with roots are perceived to have great potential.

Temperate cereals, produce rhizosheaths of soil that stick to root hairs along main root axes and their lateral branches. Rhizosheath mass depends on both genetic and soil factors and has been associated with improved phosphate and water uptake. Rhizosheath mass has the potential to provide a rapid integrative screen for root hair production and functionality, particularly useful for breeding nutrient- and water-efficient crops that perform well in reduced-input agriculture.
Previous research has revealed that root hairs (length, density, and morphology) and root and microbial exudates play a role in rhizosheath formation. In addition, we have shown that both root hair length and rhizosheath production improve resource acquisition in drought conditions. Understanding the genetic and biophysical bases of rhizosheath mass, and how these interact to influence water and nutrient uptake is now required. Rhizosheath mass has potential as a novel functional trait that can be screened rapidly to determine the genetic and physiological controls of crop tolerance to nutrient and water deficit.

The project will take advantage of considerable genomic and genetic resources with initial focus on two row spring barley association panel assembled from national and recommended list culitvars, with access to field trials that can be run across many environments in Europe.

The project aims to understand traits and genes that control rhizosheath mass. Specifically, the candidate will
1) Undertake association studies of rhizosheath traits (root hair and exudates) to validate and extend our preliminary data on genotypic variation in rhizosheath mass and identify candidate genes.
2) Determine the physiological roles of root hair traits and exudates in rhizosheath mass and how these are influenced by environmental conditions.
3) Test the association of rhizosheath mass with plant performance under nutrient-deficit and drought in both controlled environments and in the field.
4) Develop markers for the rhizosheath trait to be tested in a prebreeding and breeding environment.

Industrial Partner Diageo Industrial supervisor Katharine Smart
Academic Partner University of Dundee First Supervisor Mark Cutler (UoD)

Student Abdulazeez Tukur

A priority for the barley sector – from production into the whole supply chain – is to become more efficient in use of agronomic resources. This includes reducing barley’s carbon footprint whilst maintaining productivity and product quality. This BARIToNE CTP project builds on previous research by coupling field-based crop nutrition studies with remote sensing at scales that are effective for efficient management of nutrients and fertilizers. The drive towards efficient crop nutrient use relates strongly to BARIToNE’s theme on reducing inputs, as well as supporting climate resilience.
The aim is to combine remote sensing with change in crop nutrient use to improve nutrient utilization and efficiency in barley. This includes managing nitrogen fertilizer more effectively in crops destined for different markets such as malting, and to make more efficient use of soil derived nutrients, including better fertilizer recovery and less waste, by frequent monitoring of crop nutrient status. The experimental hypothesis states that remotely sensed spectral responses can detect change in crop nutrient demand with sufficient precision to improve nutrient application, resulting in better nutrient capture and reduced loss or waste.

In framing field experiments, the student will identify research questions in three key areas:
(1) scope for reducing inputs, and reducing waste and loses, (2) strategies to manage nutrients and fertilizers more efficiently and (3) working towards ‘just-in-time’ management of fertilizer, with replenishment as demanded by the crop. Links to industry and wider application include: (a) developing crop management for local growing conditions and needs, (b) advice on growing barley in more challenging, and changing environments, including marginal soils and (c) scope for use of advanced technologies and nutrient studies in crop genetic improvement.

Project resources include remote sensing and crop nutrient study at multiple sites (including JHI’s Balruddery Farm and SRUC’s barley trials in East and Mid Lothian centres, as well as controlled environment facilities), expertise in hyperspectral reflectance and fluorescence data analysis, support from recent research on advanced technology for efficient crop production, and use of Agrecalc – a tool for carbon foot-printing. Throughout the research programme, the student will have opportunity to engage with a broader programme of strategic research in advanced agronomic techniques and crop resource use, including Scottish Government funded research on crop improvement and climate change.

This research project will be conducted in partnership with Diageo and will offer the opportunity to gain valuable industrial experience during a hosted placement within a Technical Division of the company, as well as undertaking an industrially relevant qualification.

Industrial Partner KWS Lochow Industrial supervisor Klaus Oldach
Academic Partner The James Hutton Institute First Supervisor Luke Ramsay (JHI)

Student Paulina Aboyadana

Climate change and society’s reaction to it will, both directly and indirectly, push agricultural production to have to function in increasingly marginal conditions. We need to utilise the crop diversity available to generate the improved crop varieties that will be adapted to these marginal conditions while at the same time mitigating climate change by reducing N inputs. Understanding the yield architecture under reduced inputs (nitrogen and water) will be key to the future breeding of such varieties and to managing both nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The genetic control of nitrogen uptake and utilisation will underpin the realised NUE and resilience to abiotic stress, such as variation in water availability, will be key to adaptation.

This project will quantify a range of above and below ground traits associated with climate change mitigation and adaptation, in relevant populations of barley. This study will therefore include detailed dissection of yield architecture and partition of nitrogen as well as an overview of root system architecture.

There are a number of barley populations that are available to the project, but the focus will begin on a Nested Association Mapping (NAM) population produced by KWS using 12 donor parents including barley landraces from a range of environments with a range of inherent stress. This population has been extensively genotyped and a working population of 89 lines has been selected from 352 lines. Importantly previous field trialling has already indicated that this subset includes introgressions from the landrace/older varietal parents that have a beneficial effect on yield and yield stability over a range of environments. Initial research will focus on this core set of lines and derived material.

In the preliminary experiments the candidate will subject the NAM population to a range of reduced N and variable water availability treatments (field or CE?). Data will be used to derive QTLs for tolerance to reduced N inputs, water stress and a combination of both stresses and their association with a range of developmental and morphological traits. These initial studies will guide subsequent experimentation that will include glasshouse and field phenotyping and molecular physiological studies. The PhD candidate will have the opportunity to develop the project further in the direction of genetics/genomics, plant physiology and nitrogen use and will have the opportunity to work closely with scientists and breeders in KWS, the commercial partner.

Industrial Partner Chivas Brothers Industrial supervisor Tom Mulholland
Academic Partner The James Hutton Institute First Supervisor Kelly Houston (JHI)

Student David Ashworth

The Scotch Whisky industry is committed to reaching net zero by 2040 and this year the Scotch Whisky Association launched its new Sustainability Strategy (SWA, 2021). With less than two decades to significantly reduce the environmental impact, ‘end to end’ innovative solutions are required that benefit the whole supply chain. Scotch Whisky requires high yielding and good quality malting barley, of which almost 90% is grown locally in Scotland. To maintain this requires considerable inputs, which are currently costly and unsustainable. In addition, from the production side, distillery-derived by-products require efficient and sustainable disposal. One potential solution is to use these by-products to develop new phytonutrients that can be used in the primary production of the barley crop, providing a circular sustainable growth system, reducing requirements for inputs and at the same time minimising need for disposal of waste products from distilling. Historically, seaweed and other algae have been used as a nutrient supply to grow barley on farms or crofts successfully, but to scale production to generate the quantities and quality of grain required for distilling would be impractical.

We propose to examine the effects of applying these novel by-product derived nutrients on barley growth, in comparison with standard malting regime inputs, on a range of different barley cultivars which are commonly grown for malt. We will compare yield and grain characteristics, including grain nitrogen and ultimately malting quality traits. Furthermore, we will determine the effects of these nutrients on the microbiome populations of the roots and soil rhizosphere. Combining trait data gathered from initial glasshouse-controlled experiments, with genetic data generated previously, we can begin to understand the genetic control of nutrient uptake. This will allow us to identify barley cultivars that are better suited at utilising novel sources of nutrients and define potential genetic markers that can be used in downstream breeding programmes to integrate these sustainability traits. The PhD candidate will have the opportunity to exploit the long-established genetic and genomic resources available at the James Hutton Institute, gaining experience in these essential areas, along with plant & soil physiology. Importantly, they will develop skills relating to industry, specifically malting and distilling, through the close collaboration with Chivas Brothers.

Industrial Partner SAOS Industrial supervisor Jim Booth
Academic Partner University of Dundee First Supervisor Morris Altman (UoD)

Student Carla Coghlan

The focus of this project is researching the role agricultural co-ops (member-owned organizations) play in driving change in their networks with a focus on helping their farmer members address the climate challenge. Education and effective knowledge transfer are a key pillar and one of the seven principles of co-operation in co-op enterprises.
SAOS believe addressing the climate emergency is too large a challenge for any one business to tackle alone, especially SMEs. And that Scotland’s strong agricultural co-ops can be an effective solution to coordinating meaningful change whilst remaining competitive via highly effective co-op farmer member networks.
The co-op model presents a huge opportunity to support farmers address barriers such as limited time and capital, technical change, and information asymmetries. Action to deliver both economic and environmental gains become progressively more difficult as the industry advances through ‘easy wins’ and lower cost solutions. This highlights the value of a more collaborative approach between farmers, to support for example, the adoption and development of new technology or commitment to more capital-intensive investments. Arguably one of the key roles co-ops provide is the leadership to facilitate and actualize change. For example, the investment by Aberdeen Grain in large-scale biomass driers to decarbon the drying of malting barley grain.

That said, the co-op business model is not well understood in Scotland or the wider UK, despite their long history as a business model, founded in the principles of mutual support, democracy and shared economic benefits. Apart from the commercial returns from being a member, co-ops seek to build social capital and enhance skills that can be vital in building resilience and strengthening rural communities, whilst remaining competitive.

Industrial Partner ABInBEV Industrial supervisor Alex Park
Academic Partner University of Nottingham First Supervisor John Foulkes (UoN)

Student Karol Kukula

Developing cultivars with high yields and malting quality whilst minimising N inputs is a key target for the production of sustainable barley crops. High N applications are uneconomic and pose a potential threat of nitrate pollution of ground water as well as emissions of GHGs due to the release of N2O. To develop N-efficient cultivars will require improved understanding of the genetic and physiological bases of both N uptake and utilization. The project will identify novel genotypes expressing high N-uptake efficiency and N-utilization efficiency, understand the mechanisms underlying the improved N efficiency and investigate the genetic bases of these traits. The plant material phenotyped will include elite UK and European malting barley cultivars and landraces in the public domain and an elite GWAS panel from the ABI breeding programme. In years 1 and 2, a panel of ten elite cultivars and landraces will be phenotyped at a field site at Nottingham University at four fertilizer N rates ranging from sub-optimal to a supra-optimal N rates. Physiological analysis will be carried out to understand how the high N-use efficiency genotypes are explained by the different physiological components of: (i) root activity, (ii) leaf/canopy photosynthetic rate and (iii) optimized N remobilization determining the stay green trait. The field studies will utilise shovelomics or electrophysiological or penetrometer methods for quantifying root traits.

Photosynthetic traits will be quantified through analysis of multi and hyperspectral reflectance indices. In addition, biomass and N uptake and dry matter and N partitioning will be quantified at critical development stages through the growing season. Malting quality of grain samples will be assessed through analysis of grain N%, germination performance, texture and micro-malting tests (alpha amylase, moisture, protein, beta glucan, DP, FAN, extract, s/t, soluble protein, turbidity, and wort color). From these data, we will understand the bases of the improved for N-efficiency for malting barley genotypes and identify target traits for improved NUE for further genetic analysis. In year 3, a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) study will be carried out phenotyping target traits in a field experiment on an ABI GWAS malting barley panel utilizing a 40,000 SNP array to identify mark-trait associations. The most promising Marker Trait Associations will then be used to search for candidate genes, for which molecular markers will be established for the NUE traits for deployment in the ABI malting barley breeding program.

Industrial Partner MAGB Industrial supervisor Julian South
Academic Partner University of Dundee First Supervisor Edgar Huitema (UoD)

Student Dylan Penlington

Across the cereals sector, there is renewed interest in grain health and concern about presence of toxic chemicals such as mycotoxins. This concern has been widespread in barley for malting, in wheat destined for milling and feed, and in oats for milling and processing. A project on barley head diseases would attract broad cereal sector interest and would have wide application.

This BARIToNE PhD project builds on previous and ongoing research by considering how crop management and barley cultivar influence the occurrence of major barley head diseases, including blight and ergot. The project relates strongly to the climate resilience theme, but also considers reduced and more efficient inputs. Experimental approaches will combine pathology, agronomy and physiology along with chemical analytical approaches and methods in the following main strands:

1. Agronomic management. To provide gap filling in our current knowledge and include field experiments on the impact of changing agronomic systems on ergot survival and proliferation. We know that ergot infection of adjacent grass swards and margins in getting into grain samples and that previous cropping and cultivation can affect fusarium infection. This aspect will be developed within a suite of agronomic management and risk factors to identify future threats to production. This part of the study will also include novel control measures for ergot and fusarium, such as biological control of plant disease which is a growing area of interest in more integrated approaches to crop protection. In addition, the impact of environmental conditions which favour the germination of ergot sclerotia and the expression of toxin production genes will be examined.
2. Monitoring the presence of mycotoxins. To understand the presence of soil and trash borne inoculum and ergot sclerotia and their contribution to mycotoxin and alkaloid concentrations. The monitoring of the presence of mycotoxins and alkaloids will be undertaken with wider project collaboration, including methods for their minimisation through the supply chain and subsequent processing. We also consider that any changes in agronomy that control ergot must not be to the detriment of Fusarium derived mycotoxins, of which T2/HT2 are important in barley.

Throughout the research programme, the student will have opportunity to engage with broader strategic research on crop health and improvement

Scientific pillars

Research projects are grouped into three overlapping scientific pillars addressing aspects of sustainable and resilient crop production:

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity today and already impacts agricultural production and crop quality. However, as well as having to respond to climate change, agriculture can play a key role in tackling it. Projects offered in this theme are designed to address pressing environmental issues affecting crop production and quality (e.g. early-season droughts, lodging, high temperature during flowering, rain at harvest). Using innovative approaches, projects will explore sensitivity to these and a range of other climate-related issues with a view to developing genetic or agronomic strategies and solutions to minimise climate-induced loss and contribute positively to the climate emergency.

Current UK cereals agriculture is largely founded upon the development of crop varieties that perform well (yield) under unsustainably high inputs. As a result, fertiliser production and field emissions from fertiliser comprise over 75% of the arable agriculture carbon budget. Projects offered in this theme will look to develop germplasm that requires fewer inputs (e.g. using genotypes that are adapted to low/no input conditions) alongside biological (e.g. green digestate) and technical approaches that improve land management and capture nitrogen and carbon.

Weeds, pests and diseases have the potential to decimate barley production if left unchecked, a particular issue when critical active agrochemical ingredients are being withdrawn from the marketplace and reduced tillage becomes more prevalent. Using fundamental and applied research, projects will explore and improve weed (e.g. improving early vigour, optimising plant architecture, no glyphosate), pest and pathogen management by providing effective resistance against key current (e.g. Rhynchosporium / Ramularia / BYDV) and potential emerging barley pathogens.

The interaction between plants and the soil in which they grow is critical for productive agriculture. Soil organic carbon (organic matter) holds soil particles together, enhances water retention and reduces erosion, impacts nitrogen leaching, and helps maintain the critical microbial biodiversity that facilitates nutrient mobilisation from soil into crops, improving growth and yields. It is an important environmental sink for fixed CO2. In addition, the rhizospheres microbially driven nitrogen cycle fundamentally controls nitrification and denitrification of ammonium- or urea-containing fertilizers and therefore controls release of nitrogen in soil that is used by crops to increase yield and protein. However, the production of nitrogen fertiliser is energy-intensive and poor nitrogen recovery can promote a range of issues ranging from eutrophication of waterways to increased greenhouse gas emissions and affect the balance of soil microflora. Soil processes controlled in the rhizosphere also impact the availability of macro- or micro-nutrient deficiency or toxicity and can impact growth and lead to poor yields and product quality (e.g. Mn deficiency). Critically, different plants and even different genotypes can uniquely respond to different soil properties, controlling processes in the rhizosphere. Using novel and innovative approaches (e.g. environmental genetic association studies), projects offered in this theme will research the interaction between barley genotypes and the rhizosphere in order to improve soil health and thus sustainable crop production with a focus on promoting carbon sequestration and priming of the microbial biomass to impact the cycle of N and other nutrients.

Key elements of the programme:

  • Collaborative PhD projects run by internationally renowned scientists
  • Work placement(s) of 3-6 months in the industry research environment
  • Comprehensive skills training across the entire barley supply and value chain
  • BARIToNE specific training resourced by making use of knowledge and provisions across the academic and industrial partners (Induction events, Intellectual property and Entrepreneurship training, visits to farms, malting sites and many more)
  • A voice in the decision making, representing your peers as BARIToNE Champion

Please see below for more details on what we offer, eligibility and how to apply.

We have a limited number of studentships available with a start date of September 2023. Part-time study is an option for some of the projects (please indicate at time of application).

If you are successful, you will receive a full RCUK stipend (currently £17,668) also covering tuition fees, training, and travel budget. We also offer enhanced support to individuals with primary care responsibilities or disabilities.’

Closing date for applications: 19th May 2023

Interviews: Start of June 2023

Applications are welcome from ‘Home’ students. 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

More details on UKRI eligibility criteria can be found in the Training Grant T&C’s here. Applicants are expected to hold (or be about to achieve) at least a 2:1 Honours degree (or demonstrable equivalent experience) in a relevant subject (e.g. Biology, Genetics, Plant Sciences, Ecology, Soil Science, Computer Sciences etc.). One of our studentships requires the successful candidate to hold (or about to achieve) a BSc in Business or equivalent.

We particularly encourage students from groups that are currently underrepresented in postgraduate science research, including black and minority ethnic (BME) students and those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. We are committed to being part of an evolving community of practitioners who will develop and share practice to bring science and culture together, placing both firmly at the heart of what we do.

Importantly, we will run an Open Day for prospective applicants on the 25th of April, from 1-2 pm. Points to be discussed at the Open Days:

-introductions from members of the Executive Group, CTP Manager and University of Dundee

-completing the pre-application form

-selection process and interviews

Please register your interest as soon as possible. Once registered, you will have access to the Teams link to login to the meeting on the day.

Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev)


Campden BRI

Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard)




James Hutton Limited



Maltsters’ Association of Great Britain (MAGB)

Molson Coors

Opportunity North East

Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)

Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI)



William Grant & Sons

Associated academics

LC-MS technologist and senior research scientist, Environmental and Biochemical Sciences; Deputy head of Plant Biochemistry and Food Quality Group. Will is a biochemist and metabolomics lead researcher, specializing in the analysis of cereal and fruit crops. His current research is focused upon the understanding of nitrogen resource use efficiency (NUE), with the aim of breeding barley lines suited to low nitrogen inputs (IN-U-Bar, in collaboration with Dr Tim George and Dr Rob Hancock, Hutton); the application of metabolomics in metabolic QTL studies to identify biochemical targets to aid crop improvement breeding programs (in collaboration with Dr Kelly Houston, Hutton); and the improvement of fruit and cereal nutritional value, as well as the reproducibility of product quality across different growth environments, seasons, processing and storage routines.

Will would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on understanding and optimizing yields and quality under reduced inputs or under future climate/management/process/storage routines applying metabolomic and biochemical phenotyping approaches (Themes; Reducing Inputs/Climate Resilience)

Contact:; tel: 0844 928 8745

Morris Altman is the Dean of the University of Dundee School of Business and Chair Professor of Behavioral and Institutional Economics and Co-operatives. He collaborates with industry worldwide on issues of co-operative ownership in agriculture, the caring sector and Aboriginal (First Nation) economic development. His research also relates to how co-operative organizational structures can facilitate economic success in the SME sector by achieving scale in many dimensions, allowing for the SMEs to mimic the scale of the traditionally organized larger firms in society. This approach is vitally important to develop a more competitive and vibrant SME sector. He has also published on sustainable greener economies within dynamic market economies. Here his research relates to how firms can remain competitive within the framework of a more environmentally business model. Morris has published well over 120 refereed papers and given over 200 international academic and has published 18 books in economic theory, co-operatives, ethics, and public policy.


Dr Martin Balcerowicz, Royal Society University Research Fellow and Independent Investigator, The University of Dundee

Martin is a plant molecular biologist interested in how plant growth and development are affected by ambient temperature. In particular, he researches how warm temperature affects transcriptional and translational processes in plants, and how temperature information is integrated into internal signalling networks to generate appropriate developmental and physiological responses.

Martin would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on, for example, the molecular responses of barley plants to warm temperature and on genetic tools to mitigate negative effects heat has on plant growth and grain production (Theme: Climate Resilience).


Dr Micha Bayer: Bioinformatics Specialist, International Barley Hub (IBH): Micha is a bioinformatics specialist with a focus on second and third generation sequence analysis and 14 years of experience in barley genomics, variomics and transcriptomics. He was part of the consortia for the barley genome projects in 2012 and 2017 and is a co-author on several high-impact publications revolving around the analysis of genetic variation in barley. He was also the lead bioinformatician for the last two barley genotyping platforms, the Illumina iSelect 9k and 50k genotyping chips. He has also been involved in the two barley reference transcriptome projects, leading to high-quality barley reference transcript datasets (BART1 and BART2).

Micha has been involved in a number of projects involving the identification of resistance genes and would be keen to engage with industry partners to set up a CTP studentship in this area, or any other area involving barley genomics/variomics.


Dr. Jorunn Bos, Senior Lecturer/Principal Investigator, The University of Dundee and The James Hutton Institute.

Jorunn is a molecular plant pathologist with a research interest in understanding the molecular dialogue between plants and insect pests. Her group explores how insects, such as aphids, modify host susceptibility with the aim to improve crop protection strategies. Research involves model plants, such as Arabidopsis, as well as (cereal) crops, including barley.

Jorunn would be interested in exploring the possibilities to work with commercial stakeholders within the CTP PhD programme to look at, for example, plant resistance/susceptibility to insects and virus transmission. Themes: Reducing Inputs/Climate resilience.


Prof Rob Brooker: Head of Ecological Sciences, James Hutton Institute

Rob is a plant ecologist and has studied plant interactions – particularly beneficial plant-plant interactions – for over 25 years. His recent research has focused on the role of beneficial interactions in delivering sustainable crop production through management approaches such as intercropping. In particular, he is interested in the mechanisms underlying and governing the benefits of intercropping, and how we can use knowledge of these mechanisms to further integrate biodiversity into crop production.

Rob would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on managing and promoting crop system biodiversity (in the widest sense) to deliver more sustainable and resilient crop production systems.

Contact:; tel: 01224 395 176

Dr Davide Bulgarelli: Senior Lecturer and Principal Investigator, The University of Dundee

Davide is an experimental scientist interested in deciphering the molecular interactions between plants and the microbial communities thriving at the root-soil interface, collectively referred to as the rhizosphere microbiome. Similar to the microbiome defined by the digestive tract of humans, the rhizosphere microbiome can positively impact on the nutritional status, growth and health of its host plants.

Davide would be therefore keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project focusing, for example, on evaluating and exploiting the capacity of the rhizosphere microbiome to sustain barely yields in low input scenarios (Themes; Reducing Inputs/Healthy soils).

Contact: e-mail:; tel: 01382 568934

Dr Isabelle Colas: Research Investigator, The James Hutton Institute

Isabelle is a plant molecular biologist specialized in 3D cytology and microscopy. Her main interest is the understanding or meiosis and recombination in large genome crops. Her recent research includes characterization of a number of meiotic genes and how they control barley recombination. One breakthrough of her lab is the discovery of a new grass specific gene called HvST1 which absence increases recombination in barley by 50%.

Isabelle would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on, for example, exploiting HvST1 in a pre-breeding program.

Contact: e-mail:; tel: 01382 568962

Prof David Cook: AB InBev Professor in Brewing Science, The University of Nottingham.

David is a Food Chemist with more than 20 years of experience conducting research and teaching relating to brewing, analytical food chemistry and flavour technology. Current research activity focuses on malting science and technology, beer flavour formation and stability and the reduction of water and energy usage in malting and brewing. Sustainable bioprocessing of raw materials and co-products is a further interest of the group.

David would be keen to collaborate on CTP projects where there is a need to appraise the impacts of the various strategies employed to improve the sustainability of UK barley on the quality of barley for malting, brewing or distilling.

Contact:; tel: 0115 9516245

Dr Henry Creissen: Research Fellow/Lecturer in Crop Protection, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Edinburgh

Henry is an Applied Plant Pathologist and integrated pest management (IPM) expert with over a decade of research experience in various farming systems. His current research focuses on developing effective integrated disease management strategies for arable crops, improving IPM approaches to arable farming, increasing farmer adoption of best practice, and quantifying adoption of IPM practices at farm level through stakeholder engagement and farmer surveys. Although he specialises in disease management Henry has a wide-ranging knowledge of crop protection practices and is a member of the British Crop Production Council Weeds Working Group. Henry represents SRUC in an advisory capacity for the Voluntary Initiative, an industry-led programme with many members (inc. Chemical Regulation Division and Scottish Government) promoting responsible pesticide use through IPM.

Henry would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project on developing integrated pest management (IPM) to increase crop production efficiencies and reduce reliance on pesticides. (Themes; Sustainable Crop Production/Reducing Inputs)

Contact:; phone: +44 131 535 4119

Prof. Mark Cutler: Chair of Physical Geography, The University of Dundee

Mark is a remote sensing specialist and biogeographer and has worked on the fundamental relationships between reflected radiation and plant physiology and morphology for over 25 years. Recent work includes detecting signatures and responses of plant stress associated with hydrocarbon pollution using hyperspectral and fluorescence sensors.

Mark would be keen to work with stakeholders to develop PhD projects exploring the use of new sensing technology (hyperspectral, lidar, drone etc) to detect stress and impacts on productivity and plant health resulting from disease, pests, nutrient and water availability, and resilience to future climate scenarios.

Contact:; tel: 01382 385446

Dr. Francois Dussart: Post-doctoral researcher, SRUC

Francois is a molecular plant pathologist whose work focusses primarily on understanding plant-pathogen interactions. He has worked for the past 8 years on the barley pathogen Ramularia collo-cygni to identify how the pathogen produces and uses toxic secondary metabolites to induce disease in its host. In addition, Francois has interest in barley production system that minimise the use of inputs (particularly fungicide inputs) and he also recently contributed to an AHDB-funded project that improved our understanding of soil health by studying how soil amendments can impact microbial communities.

Francois would be interested in developing a CTP PhD project with industrial partners to understand the unfolded protein response in barley which could help identify breeding targets for improving crop resistance to biotic (particularly Ramularia leaf spot) and abiotic stresses (e.g. drought stress, heat stress). (Theme: Climate resilience/Reducing inputs)

Contact:; phone: 07876863424

John Foulkes: Associate Professor in Crop Science, The University of Nottingham

John is a plant and crop physiologist and has worked on basic and applied barley physiology research for over 20 years. His recent research includes the identification of spike hormones and candidate genes determining variation in spike fertility, grain number and grain size/uniformity, and in understanding relationships among leaf senescence and N remobilization traits, and many other N assimilation traits expressed at different levels of integration, and the way these traits interact to determine adaptation to N limitation.

John would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on exploiting genetic variation in plant signalling in spikes to enhance grain number and grain size/uniformity or understanding the bases of favourable genetic introgressions (e.g. landrace, wild barely relative donors) for adaptation to N limitation for deployment in plant breeding (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs).

Contact:; tel: 01159 516024

Dr Tim George: Rhizosphere Scientist, The James Hutton Institute

Tim is a plant physiologist/soil scientist and has worked on the dynamics of nutrients in the rhizosphere of plants and variation in root traits for the last 24 years. His recent research includes work on the ability of Bere barley to cope with extreme micronutrient deficiency, the role of root exuded enzymes and mycorrhizae in making organic P available and the impact of root hairs on the ability of barley to acquire soil resources.

Tim would like to work with breeding companies to investigate the use of barley diversity for climate change mitigation: discovering genes and traits for optimal rhizosphere N and P cycle and C sequestration. Understanding the rhizosphere processes involved in the N, P and C cycle and how these are affected by genotypic variation in root exudate composition will be key to managing both fertilizer use efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs)


Dr Maddy Giles: Researcher in the Plant-Soil Interactions (PSI) research group within Ecological Sciences.

Maddy is a soil microbial ecologist and biogeochemist whose research focuses on the ecology of the C and N cycles. Her interests lie in relating how changes in soil functional communities can affect nutrient cycling and the production of greenhouse gases in agricultural systems. In particular she’s interested in using next generation sequencing techniques to characterise the soil microbiome in order to understand how microbial community dynamics can be affected by crop selection and can impact retention of N in soils.

Maddy would be interested in developing a CTP PhD project with commercial stakeholders based on exploiting the soil microbiome for improved soil health. (Themes; Healthy soils)

Contact:; tel: 1382 568 797

Dr. Wenbin Guo: Bioinformatician, The James Hutton Institute.

Wenbin is a Bioinformation and has worked on developing computational and mathematical models for high-throughput experimental data analysis. He has developed several easy-to-use tools for transcriptomics analysis and gene regulatory network construction. The differential expression analysis tool 3D RNA-seq App he developed has won the Best Innovation Award in School of Life Sciences at University of Dundee and it has over 6,000 users around the world. He has been involved in projects of constructions of high-quality reference transcript datasets for a variety of plant species, such as Arabidopsis (AtRTD, AtRTD2 and AtRTD3), barley (BART1 and BART2), potato, raspberry and lettuce. He is also working on a project to construct barley pan-genome and pan-transcriptome with RNA-seq short reads and PacBio long reads from different genotypes. The tools he developed has engaged more opportunities for internal and external collaborations and publications with excellent research groups.

Wenbin would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders on a CTP PhD project to develop novel methods and automated pipelines for transcriptomics analysis, such as transcriptome construction from Oxford Nanopore data, transcriptome quality evaluation and transcript alternative splicing regulatory network inference.


Dr Rob Hancock: Principal Research Scientist, Cell & Molecular Sciences, James Hutton Institute; Scientific Lead, Advanced Plant Growth Centre

Rob is a crop physiologist and biochemist who works to understand how crop genotype and environment interact to influence crop yield and quality traits. His recent work in designing and developing the science portfolio for the Advanced Plant Growth Centre has led to an interest in developing the tools and technologies to extract meaningful physiological and biochemical data from high throughput phenotyping platforms.

Rob would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on understanding and optimizing light capture, photosynthesis and sink-source relationships to maximise yields and harvest index under reduced inputs or on developing rapid methods for screening field performance under future climate/management based on high-throughput imaging technologies. (Themes; Reducing Inputs/Climate Resilience)

Contact:; tel: 01382 568779

Dr Neil Havis : Group Leader, Carbon, Crop and Soil group, SRUC, West Mains Road, Edinburgh.

Neil is an applied plant pathologist who has worked on the major barely pathogens for over twenty years. He has spent over two decades investigating the biology, epidemiology and control of the emerging barley disease Ramularia leaf spot. His recent research is focused on the development of managing disease in Integrated Crop Management systems.

Neil leads a group with many interests in controlling barley disease and would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders who are interested in a CTP PhD project to utilize the potential resistance to Ramularia leaf spot in the wider barley population with an aim to reduce fungicide inputs (Themes Climate Resilience/Reducing inputs)

Contact:; tel: 0131 535 4136

Dr Cathy Hawes: Principle Ecologist, James Hutton Institute, Dundee

Cathy is an ecologist and manager of the Hutton’s Centre for Sustainable Cropping, an open access, long-term experimental platform where she has designed and implemented a whole-systems framework to optimise multiple ecosystem functions for environmental and economic sustainability. The platform supports a wide range of associated agroecological and inter-disciplinary research projects, bringing together academic and industry partners to iteratively develop an integrated, regenerative cropping system and quantify long-term impacts through trends in biodiversity and sustainability indicators. Knowledge exchange and co-innovation with growers is a key element of this work and Cathy works closely with industry and policy organisations to ensure integration between science and practice, particularly in developing innovative technologies to help meet multiple agroecological, environmental and economic goals for sustainable and resilient crop systems.


Dr Pete Hedley: Core Technologies group leader at the James Hutton Institute

Pete oversees the primary technical research facilities at the Hutton, including Genomics, Imaging and Biotechnology. He has extensive experience in developing and utilising high-throughput genomics tools in the major crop species, barley, potato & soft fruit, their associated pathogens, and in environmental samples, including soil and rhizosphere microbiota.

In the last decade, big sequencing data has helped drive identification of candidate genes and their variants for agronomically important traits. In conjunction with barley geneticists and computational biologists at the Hutton, we can generate and utilise genomics datasets, including sequencing, genotyping and gene expression analysis. Pete can act as a secondary supervisor to CTP PhD students, or simply provide advice and access to genomics tools throughout their studies. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs/Healthy Soils)

Contact:; tel: 01382 568773

Dr Ingo Hein, Reader / Principal Investigator, The University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute

Ingo is a crop geneticist with a focus on disease resistance. His research is aimed at the fundamental and applied aspects of crop and pathogen genomics as well as genetics to deliver crop protection against biotic threats. He has developed genomic tools to effectively harness and study the naturally occurring diversity of co-evolving plant and pathogen components that determine the outcome of the infection process.

Ingo would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project on Association genetics (AgRenSeq) to protect crops from disease and reduce the reliance on pesticides.

Contact:; tel: 01382 568869

Dr Piers Hemsley. Senior Lecturer (University of Dundee) and Principal Investigator (James Hutton Institute). Piers is a plant protein biochemist and molecular biologist interested in plant signalling and environmental perception and how this affects plant development. In particular he researches how plants perceive microbes and endogenous hormones through receptor-kinases. He also has a keen interest in plant cold acclimation and freezing tolerance. The lab uses molecular, biochemical, proteomic and chemical biology methods and Piers has a reputation for developing novel biotechnological tools and approaches to address intractable problems in plant biology.

Piers would be keen to collaborate and engage with commercial stakeholders on a range of projects, in particular those interested in plant interactions with beneficial/pathogenic microbes or understanding thermotolerance and adaptation. Themes: Reducing Inputs/Climate resilience.

Contact: /

Dr Steve Hoad: Team Leader, Crop Improvement and Agronomy, SRUC

Steve is a cereals specialist and has worked on basic and applied crop research for over 20 years. His recent research includes understanding mechanisms that determine important grain quality traits such as husk adhesion and specific weight, and the use of remote sensing and imaging to evaluate crop resource use efficiency.

Steve is keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on a major BARIToNE theme such as climate resilience or reducing inputs. This includes research to support plant breeding, increase barley quality, diversify barley end uses, and improve production and processing efficiency.

Contact:; tel: 0131 535 4342 or 07766 991891

Dr Kelly Houston: Barley geneticist, The James Hutton Institute

Kelly is a geneticist and has worked in barley genetics research for over 12 years. Much of her research has been on two main aspects of grain composition, the plant cell wall (including (1,3;1,4)-β- glucan, arabinoxylan and phenolic acids), and micronutrient content. She identifies and characterizes genes responsible for these traits using a powerful combination of high-density marker sets to carry out statistical genetic analysis and genetic resources (including natural germplasm, mutants and CRISPR-Cas9 gene-edited lines) to learn more about how these genes ultimately influence the trait of interest. Recently, Kelly has become interested in utilizing georeferenced datasets to understand more about genetic adaptation to a range of environmental conditions and how this can be applied to future predicted climates.

Kelly would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on identifying genetic variation which can be utilized to mitigate against projected future climates, or identifying genotypes that are suitable for low N inputs while maintaining grain quality for the malting sector. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs)

Contact:; tel: 01382 568960

Dr. Edgar Huitema: Senior Lecturer and Molecular Plant Pathologist, The University of Dundee

Edgar is a molecular plant pathologist with extensive experience in the characterization of host immune systems and the pathogen factors that suppress host defences. Edgar has a keen interest in the biology of filamentous pathogens, seeking to utilize knowledge that can help defeat pathogens in the field.

Edgar looks forward toward working with commercial stakeholders interested to harness knowledge on pathogen biology to devise sustainable crop protection methods. A CTP PhD project could, for example, seek to identify avirulence factors and expression systems with a view to accelerate breeding of pathogen resistant barley varieties (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs).

Contact:, Tel: 01382 568921

Dr Pete Iannetta: leads ‘Ecological Food Systems’, a sub-Group of Agroecology (Dept. of Ecological Sciences) and is an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Dundee.

Pete is a plant biologist and ecologist who studies the complex interactions which determine the sustainability of food- and feed-systems. His research is strongly focused on legume-supported systems from production to consumption, and this includes developing novel cropped systems, processing-innovation, and the provision of extension services to value-chain stakeholders including policy-makers.

Pete would welcome working with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on, for example: optimising soil-based provisions/functions made by grain legume-supported cropping (particularly using faba bean and peas), and to achieve ‘net-zero barley’ at the point of production. (Themes: Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs/Healthy Soils)

Contact:; tel., +44 (0) 77 3630 7189

Prof John Jones: Head of Cell & Molecular Sciences Dept, The James Hutton Institute & Professsor of Biology, University of St Andrews

John is a plant nematologist who has worked on genomics and host-parasite interactions of plant-parasitic nematodes for over 25 years.

John would be keen to work with commercial partners on resistance to root knot nematodes or cyst nematodes in barley.


Dr Alison Karley: Agroecologist – Integrated Cropping Systems, Department of Ecological Sciences, The James Hutton Institute (Dundee)

Ali has expertise in plant production and plant-insect interactions. Her research tests alternative cropping practices and pest control strategies to reduce reliance on external inputs and increase resilience to environmental stress. She uses participatory research and co-design with farmers and other agricultural stakeholders to trial innovative practices for crop diversification and integrated pest management to improve agricultural sustainability.

Ali would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project using cropping practices that capitalise on biodiversity benefits to regulate pests, improve soil fertility and health, and increase resilience to environmental change. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs/Soil Health)

Contact:; tel: 01382 568820

Dr Sarah McKim: Principal Investigator and Senior Lecturer, Division of Plant Sciences, The University of Dundee

Sarah is a development biologist who has led a research team exploring how barley plants grow and develop for the last eight years. Her research has revealed the genes and mechanisms which control architectural traits important to yield, such as stem elongation, spike density, row type and grain size and shape. Her recent research investigates how development interacts with responses to heat and drought, and the role of grain surface to grain quality.

Sarah would be delighted to engage with commercial partners to develop CTP projects exploring traits linked to survival in the field, including seedling establishment and resiliency to extreme weather events, and in developing new approaches to identify genes important to yield and grain quality. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs)

Contact: tel: 01382 568 8916

Dr Guillermina Mendiondo is an Assistant Professor Assistant Professor in Translational Agriculture-Crop Molecular Physiology at The University of Nottingham. Guillermina works between the field and the lab understanding how crops sense environmental cues. Guillermina is an applied plant biologist with a background in molecular and crop physiology, with expertise in a variety of approaches that include plant physiology, molecular biology (RNAi, Overexpression, CRISPR Cas9 and Barley transformation), biochemistry, cell biology, genetics and bioinformatics, in crops. Her research has focused on understanding the molecular and genetic components regulating plant-environment interactions, particularly to define the biochemistry of how plants sense environmental change, and to identify promising targets that can be manipulated in agriculturally important crops. In addition, her lab is working to understand the regulation of seed dormancy and germination, as plant hormone signalling has proven to be a very successful target for improving grain yields and quality in cereals. The ongoing goal of Guillermina’s lab is to provide plant breeders with plant genetic resources capable of enhancing tolerance to environmental stresses, providing real-world impact, alongside understanding the fundamental mechanisms of plant abiotic stress. (Themes: Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs).

Contact:, tel: +44 (0) 115 95 16064

Dr Alexandra Morel: Lecturer in Environmental Science, University of Dundee

Alexandra is an agro-ecologist with a research background in carbon and nutrient cycling, carbon footprint analysis, climate resilience and landscape ecology. She has over 15 years experience of field research across a range of crop and forest systems, primarily in tropical regions. Her most recent work has involved collaborating with soil engineers and organically certified farmers to explore the carbon sequestration potential of Scottish agricultural soils.

Alexandra would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project focused on agro-ecological management approaches to improve carbon sequestration and water retention in agricultural soils. She is also keen to develop carbon cycling monitoring methods to aid national carbon accounting requirements for application across a range of agricultural crops. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Healthy Soils)

Contact:; tel: 01382 84930

Prof Adrian C Newton: Senior Research Leader in Cereal Pathology / Agroecology at the James Hutton Institute and Honorary Professor of Cereal Pathology at SRUC.

Adrian is an agroecologist and barley / cereal pathologist with over 40 years of research experience. His recent focus has been on plant diversity interactions in the field from genotypes to species including intercropping, and variety/genotype interactions with soil tillage and crop sequence.

Adrian is keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on,

Soil health interactions, particularly tillage effects, with barley varieties/genotypes, and with cereal-legume intercropping including crop sequence effects, all of which increase crop resilience and reduce nitrogen and pesticide inputs. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs)

Contact:, tel: 01382 568824

Dr Roy Neilson: Group Leader Plant Soil Interactions Research Group, The James Hutton Institute

Roy is a soil ecologist with 39 years research experience. His expertise lies in understanding functional interactions between plants and soils, mediated by soil biology in the context of food security and sustainable production.

Roy seeks to work with commercial stakeholders to develop integrated CTP PhD projects based on, for example, exploiting barley root architecture to promote soil health; use of indigenous plant symbionts as a nature-based solution to manage pest and pathogens; utilisation of the soil microbiome to mitigate climate impacts. (Themes; Soil Health/Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs)

Contact:; tel: 07866 051161

Beatriz Orosa: Chancellor’s fellow at Institut of Molecular Plant Sciences (University of Edinburgh)

Beatriz is currently studying the fundamental mechanisms underlying ubiquitin-mediated regulation of plant immunity, joining the two main themes of her career: plant-pathogen interactions and post-translational modifications.

The post-translational modifier ubiquitin plays a vital role in cell signalling and is an indispensable component of the plant immune system with a key role in modulating the stability of immune receptors and transcriptional regulators.

Her research is focused on applying innovative approaches to decipher the ubiquitin code that barley uses to modulate the immune response, and manipulate this system to block the pathogens suppression of host immune responses. Her research is opening up new strategies for the development of barley with improved disease resistance.

Contact: e-mail:; tel: 0131 650 5924

Dr Eric Paterson: Senior Scientist, Plant-Soil Interactions, The James Hutton Institute

Eric is a soil ecologist, with his research primarily focused on interactions between plants, soils, microbes and biogeochemical cycling. His group has developed novel methods, particularly stable isotope approaches, to quantify carbon and nutrient dynamics in soil. This research has been applied to evaluate management impacts on soil health, crop productivity and soil greenhouse gas (GHG) balances. Recent research has explored crop genotype selection in the context of optimisation of microbial processes mediating nutrient supply and mitigation of soil GHG fluxes.

Eric is looking to work with partners to develop CTP PhD project proposals, particularly on novel approaches to maintain/ improve sustainable soil health and functioning, while maintaining crop productivity. (Themes: Climate Resilience, Reducing Inputs, Healthy Soils).

Contact:; tel: 01224 395354

Dr Luke Ramsay; Barley Geneticist, James Hutton Institute

Luke has worked on the development and utilization of barley genetic and genomic resources for over 20 years. His recent work has included research into the control of recombination and potential applications in breeding as well as the mapping of genes/genomic regions controlling traits of economic importance in the current varieties.

Luke would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop of CTP PhD project based on the manipulation of recombination patterns to achieve breeding goals or the exploitation of genetic resources to address aspects of grain quality (e.g. splitting, malting, screenings). (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs).

Contact:; Tel: 01382 568 736

Prof Bob Rees: Professor of agriculture and climate change, SRUC, Edinburgh

Bob is a climate change research scientist with interests in carbon sequestration, agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation. With a background in soil and environmental science, Bob has over 30 years of research experience on nitrogen and carbon cycling and soil management in a range of crop and soil systems. SRUC hosts modern facilities for the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions in field and laboratory experiments.

Bob would be interested in supporting work that looks at the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from barley production that brings together work on nitrogen use efficiency, genetic improvement and agronomic management of cropping systems. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs)

Contact:; tel: 0131 5354365

Dr Helen Rees: Post-doctoral Researcher/Lecturer in Crop Protection, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

Helen has seven years’ experience in applied plant pathology. Her research interests are centered around using biological control agents and elicitors for sustainable disease management of important crops in agriculture and horticulture.

Helen would be interested in working with commercial stakeholders on a CTP PhD project to develop novel crop protection methods. The project would be based on using biological control agents and/or elicitors to reduce chemical inputs and control important barley diseases and protect harvested grains (e.g., Rhynchosporium, Microdocium/Fusarium, Pyrenohpora and Ramularia). (Themes; Reducing Inputs)

Contact:; tel: 0131 535 4147

Dr Mike Rivington is senior scientist at the James Hutton Institute having researched land use and climate change issues for 22 years. He studied Ecological Science (Bsc), Natural Resource Management (MSc) and a PhD at Edinburgh University. His main research interests are in understanding how climate change impacts land use and ecosystems, in Scotland and globally, and how mitigation and adaptation options can be developed. He uses a range of research approaches including: use of crop simulation models applied spatially at a high resolution to estimate barley growth under future climate conditions for the whole of Scotland; mapping agro-meteorological indicators spatially to assess risks and opportunities for land management. Particular attention is paid to understand future soil water conditions. He is an inter- and trans-disciplinary scientist, for example he is currently Principal Investigator on an ESRC funded project ‘UK food and nutrition security during and after the COVID-19 pandemic’. His other interests include ecosystem management and ecosystem services, particularly for climate change mitigation and adaptation. He has written policy briefs for UNEP on ecosystem-based adaptation, contributed to the US National Climate Assessment chapter on agriculture, and was a member of a UK-US tasks force on extreme weather and resilience of the global food system.


Prof John Rowan: Vice Principal (Research, KE & Wider Impact) and Professor of Physical Geography, University of Dundee

John is an environmental scientist with more than 30 years of experience working on climate and environmental change processes and societal risks and impacts, worldwide and especially in Scotland. His particular expertise is land and water management and he has served as co-lead of the Adaptation Programme within the Scottish Government’s Centre for Expertise on Climate Change (CXC) and is Academic Lead on the Scottish Government’s Centre for Research Expertise for Waters (CREW). He has supervised 20 PhD students to completion, inclusive of projects on environmental impact assessment, climate change, rivers and lochs, water resources, biodiversity, ecosystem services, natural flood management, soil erosion and carbon accounting. He is leading the University of Dundee’s commitment and planning to deliver net-zero.

John is keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on issues of concern, example, incorporating climate change projections into strategic planning; enhancing resilience of water resources (quantity and quality issues); decarbonizing supply chains; embracing nature-based solutions. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs/Healthy Soils)

Contact:; 01382 384024

Prof Rumiana Ray: Plant and Crop Sciences Division, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham

Rumiana is a plant pathologist, known for her work on the development of sustainable, integrated control strategies for Fusarium head blight and mycotoxins in cereals, and the soil-borne/stem-base disease complexes. Her research is focussed on improving plant health, crop productivity and protection against pathogenic and pest threats to food security. She has expertise and experience in the development of novel approaches and field technologies for pathogen/disease detection inclusive of fluorescence signals to identify disease signatures and molecular diagnostics. Second strand of her work is focussed on plant immunity and physiological and genetic mechanisms of dual (host-pathogen) and tripartite (pest-host-pathogen) interactions for improved crop resilience. Rumiana collaborates with agrii industry on understanding the phytoactivity and bioaction of novel crop protection molecules and outputs of her AHDB, Innovate and BBSRC-funded projects have been successfully utilised by industry stakeholders to improve disease management.

Rumiana will be interested in the development of CTP PhD projects in disease/pest resistance, mycotoxin reduction strategies and increasing crop tolerance to multiple stresses.
Contact:; Tel. 0115 951 6049

Dr Joanne Russell: Barley Geneticist at the James Hutton Institute

Research over the past 27 years has focused on developing genetic markers to explore and understand diversity within the extensive assembled collections of barley germplasm, including cultivars, globally distributed landraces and wild progenitors. Following technological advances our emphasis has shifted from cataloguing diversity to recognition of the genetic value of these resources for sustainable and resilient barley production. Recent research has focussed on developing novel ‘breeder-ready-to-go’ germplasm.

We are just beginning to realise the potential of these landraces and wild barleys as important sources of variation to respond to abiotic and biotic stresses. Developing a CTP PhD project to explore how adapted landraces and wild germplasm can contribute to future crop improvements will provide understanding of the complexity of adaptation and identify new gene combinations to maintain yield in a changing environment.

(Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs)

Contact:; tel: 01382 568857

Dr Paul Shaw: Senior Scientist Bioinformatics/Information Systems, International Barley Hub (IBH)/The James Hutton Institute

Paul is a bioinformatician and has worked on the development of database and software to help in the storage, visualization and analysis of data from the plant genetics, genetic resources and plant (pre) breeding domains for over 20 years. His recent research interests include the development of informatics platforms including Germinate for the storage of experimental data resulting from plant germplasm collections and Helium for the visualization of complex plant pedigrees. His group is also active in the development of mobile applications for the efficient collection of experimental data.

Paul would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP-funded PhD project in areas such as in the storage, visualization and analysis of high-volume, complex field trial data (big data) where technologies such as environmental sensors or drone technology are increasingly important. He is also interested in areas such as how machine learning can be used to help ensure data quality from trials and offer better predictive or classification outputs. These tools will provide new mechanisms for the exploitation of diversity, helping in the development of new, adapted, climate-resistant crops. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs)

Contact:; tel: 01382 568864

Dr. Craig Simpson: Senior Research Scientist, The James Hutton Institute.

Craig is a plant molecular biologist and experimental scientist who is interested in environmental gene expression responses in barley. He is utilising genome-wide RNA-seq transcript abundance datasets to identify important barley genes and gene pathways in phenotypically divergent barley tissues or barley grown under variable environmental conditions. He has recently focused on the short-term cold acclimation gene expression response in spring barley types and the importance of alternative expressed transcripts.

Craig is eager to work with commercial partners to develop a CTP PhD project that investigates the dynamic molecular nature of adaptation, tolerance and recovery to variable climate and disease stresses. (Theme: Climate Resilience).

Contact; Tel: 01382 568774

Prof Nicola Stanley-Wall: Professor of Microbiology; Academic Lead for Public Engagement, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee

Nicola is a molecular microbiologist and has worked on basic and applied aspects of biofilm research using the Gram-positive soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis for over 20 years. Her recent research includes the characterization of proteins and gene networks required for biofilm formation, and more recently in understanding intraspecies interactions through exploiting natural Bacillus subtilis diversity.

Given the widespread commercial use of Bacillus subtilis as a plant growth promoting bacterium, Nicola would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project based on, for example, exploiting Bacillus subtilis to promote growth of Barley. (Themes; Reducing Inputs/Healthy Soils)

Contact:; tel: 01382 568731

Dr Tracy Valentine: Research Leader Plant:Soils interactions. Soils@hutton coordinator

Tracy has over 20 years experience in applied and basic research at the plant root:soils interface. Utilising both image analysis and molecular based methods she has investigated processes and impacts of soil management on plant root growth and development, and root soil biological and physical interactions with the aim of understanding how to improve crop genotypes and management systems, via increasing knowledge of root:soil biological and physical processes at a range of scales.

Tracy would be interested in developing PhD projects that investigate the sustainability of crop/soil management techniques (incl Tillage, and biological Tillage (e.g. inclusion of Cover crops)) and the impacts this has on Barley primary production sustainability and yield productivity, through understanding root:soil physical and biological interactions including the contribution of crop genotype. (Themes: Climate resilience/Reducing inputs)

Contact:; tel: 01382 568731

Prof Graeme Walker: Professor of Zymology, School of Applied Sciences, Abertay University, Dundee

Graeme is a yeast physiologist and has conducted academic and industrial research in fermentation science and technology for over 40 years. He collaborates with the brewing, distilling and bioethanol sectors of industry and was elected Fellow of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling in 2009. Graeme directs a yeast research group at Abertay University with current projects involving exploitation of legumes for beer and spirits (with JHI) and use of diverse yeasts for whisky fermentations (CTP with SWRI). He has published over 200 articles and has authored several textbooks, including Yeast Physiology & Biotechnology, Bioethanol and The Alcohol Textbook. See:

Graeme would be keen to work with industrial colleagues on CTP PhD projects dealing with yeast and fermentation technology linked to the BARIToNE Theme: Reducing Inputs.


Dr Nicholas Watson: Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Nottingham.

Nicholas’s research is focused on data-driven in-process sensing to deliver sustainable, safe and productive food manufacturing systems. Data-driven sensing combines cost-effective in-process sensors (e.g. optical and ultrasonic) with machine learning techniques and overcomes many of the challenges associated with utilising sensors to produce actionable information within manufacturing environments. Current areas of research include multi-sensor data fusion and emerging machine learning techniques such as transfer and distributed learning for applications including factory cleaning, process monitoring (e.g. fermentation and mixing) and real-time food safety and quality assessment.

Nicholas would like to collaborate with industrial colleagues on CTP PhD projects focused on the use of sensing and data driven modelling to address environmental sustainability challenges.

Contact: email:; tel: 01157484848

Dr Jonathan Wilkin: Senior Lecturer in New Product Development at Abertay University

Jon is a food scientist and has worked on new product development with Scottish food and drink businesses for around 10 years. Jon has previous experience of running and delivering industrial outputs through his work with Knowledge Exchange Partnerships (KTP’s). His research includes applied food science with seaweeds as a functional textural ingredient and waste valorisation to produce functional ingredients for use in applied health / sport products.

Jon is keen to work with stakeholders to exploit any valorisation of waste compounds post-harvest or deliver food science techniques required in a CTP PhD project (Themes; Reducing Inputs).

Contact:; Tel: 01382 308783

Dr. Runxuan Zhang: Computational Biologist

Runxuan is a computational biologist, who was trained in machine learning and artificial neural networks for his PhD. His 20 years of research has been focusing on developing computational and analysis methods/tools for high throughput experimental data, such as RNA-seq for gene expression analysis. His team has published several widely used and easily accessible software and tools for analyzing sequencing data.

In collaboration with Prof Ping Lin (Expertise in image based machine learning, Math department, UoD)/ Dr Sarah McKim (Expertise in barley developmental Biology, UoD), Runxuan would be keen to work with commercial stakeholders to develop a CTP PhD project on developinng automated image-based plant phenotyping methods allows high throughput quantification of plant traits, such as plant height, canopy size, maturation time or disease monitoring, by analysing images captured by cameras or drones. This technology could, for example, greatly accelerate and enhance breeding of improved crops with beneficial architectural and physiological traits, allowing the optimization of the timing and application of inputs. (Themes; Climate Resilience/Reducing Inputs)

Contact:; tel: 01382 568886