Realising increased photosynthetic efficiency to increase strawberry yields

NIAB EMR: Dr. Andy Simkin
(the student will be registered with the University of Reading)


Increasing global requirements for food, largely due to the growing world population, has led to the need to develop higher yielding crop varieties. Transgenic and modelling studies have provided compelling evidence that increasing the levels of photosynthetic enzymes in carbon metabolism e.g. Calvin-Benson cycle has the potential to impact yield. These studies have identified photosynthetic carbon assimilation as an untapped target to increase photosynthetic efficiency and yield by as much as 60%. Recently, manipulation photosynthesis in wheat was shown to boost seed yield by 30 to 40%.


The overall aims of this project are:

  1. to exploit the extensive knowledge of photosynthesis and experience gained from its manipulation in model species to produce strawberry plants with enhanced photosynthetic performance and increased yield;
  2. to produce new transgenic strawberry lines with altered levels of multiple targets enzymes of the Calvin-Benson cycle, photorespiration and CO2 transport;
  3. to identify strawberry lines with increased biomass and fruit yield and analyse the impact on the flavour and aroma profiles of selected fruit.

As part of this project, the student will gain skills in plant physiology, molecular biology, biochemistry and horticulture. The student will work in a supportive group composed of molecular biologists, biochemists and plant physiologists. This work will be carried out primarily at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany – East Malling Research (NIAB-EMR) under the supervision of Dr Andrew Simkin. The successful candidate will be registered at the University of Reading. Physiology will be conducted in collaboration with Prof Christine Raines and Prof Tracy Lawson at the University of Essex.

Beginning in October 2018, the successful candidate should have (or expect to have) an Honours Degree (or equivalent) at 2.1 or above in Plant Biology, Plant Physiology or Molecular Biology. Interested candidates should review the attached publication list prior to interview.

Anyone interested should send your application (CV, cover letter, personal statement and two names for reference) to, citing the project reference. Application deadline is 13 April 2018. Informal  enquiries can be made to Dr Andrew Simkin:

  1. Driever, S.M.; et al 2017. Increased SBPase activity improves photosynthesis and grain yield in wheat grown in greenhouse conditions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 372, 1730.
  2. Simkin, A.J.; et al 2015. Multigene manipulation of photosynthetic carbon assimilation increases CO2 fixation and biomass yield in tobacco. J Exp Bot, 66, 4075-4090.
  3. Simkin, A.J.; et al  2017a. Simultaneous stimulation of sedoheptulose 1,7-bisphosphatase, fructose 1,6-bisphophate aldolase and the photorespiratory glycine decarboxylase h-protein increases CO2 assimilation, vegetative biomass and seed yield in arabidopsis. Plant biotechnology journal, 15, 805-816.
  4. Simkin, A.J.; et al  2017b. Over-expression of the RieskeFes protein increases electron transport rates and biomass yield. Plant physiology, 175, 134-145.