Skip to content
Studentships image background

Using eDNA technologies to detect herbicide resistance in the soil seedbank

  • School: School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2023

Project ID: ARES3

This interdisciplinary project will use eDNA technologies to address a key unresolved issue in sustainable food production: detecting and managing weed seed banks. With partners at the University of Sheffield and Rothamsted Research you will investigate the use of cutting edge technologies to quantify weed pressure, and identify herbicide resistance.

Weed infestation accounts for up to 34% of global crop losses worldwide. Increasing reliance on chemical control has led to rapid evolution of herbicide resistance, making weed populations more difficult to manage and threatening food production. Environmental DNA (eDNA) analyses involve using state-of-the-art sequencing technologies to detect and quantify organisms from environmental samples. This project builds upon novel proof of concept work carried out in the last year - Using eDNA, you will conduct sampling and analyses across a national network of farms, assessing the impact of soil physicochemical properties and different weed management strategies on weed seedbank dynamics and resulting yield loss. You will also develop methods to apply eDNA technologies to the detection and quantification of herbicide resistance within the weed seed bank – this has never been attempted before!

This project will focus on black-grass (Alopecurus myosuroides), an arable weed that has been estimated to cause a loss of 0.8 million tonnes of wheat yield per year in England alone. Modern weed management strategies centre on the use of herbicides, but this has led to the evolution of herbicide resistance and makes weed populations harder to control.

Farmers and land managers have been using a diversity of weed control measures to try and manage black-grass populations (and weed populations more generally) to prevent the inevitable evolution of herbicide resistance in their fields. Reducing chemical inputs is key to preventing evolution of herbicide resistance; targeted use of chemicals is a vital part of this. To make informed decisions on where to target weed control and which chemicals to use, farmers need to equip themselves with knowledge of their weed populations. In this project you will play a key role in developing and testing new approaches to provide farmers with this information - to enable targeted management of weed populations, reduced reliance on agrichemicals and develop more sustainable food production systems.

Supervisory Team:

  • Dr Helen Hicks (NTU)
  • Prof Rob Freckleton (University of Sheffield)
  • Dr David Comont (Rothamsted Research)

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

To make an application, please visit our studentship application page.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2023 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Application guidance can be found on our studentship application page.

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418