What factors control variation in floral initiation in strawberry?


Supervisors: Prof Dan Sargent, Prof Timo Hytonen (NIAB at East Malling); Jim Dunwell (University of Reading)

This student will be registered with the University of Reading. Beginning in October 2022, the successful candidate should have (or expect to have) an Honours Degree (or equivalent) with a minimum of 2.1 in Plant Science, Biology, or other related science subjects.


The research on the control of meristem fates lacked sufficient attention at the molecular level, despite its large importance in the horticultural industry. As with all rosaceous perennials (apart from everbearing strawberries and primocane raspberries), floral initiation happens in short days at the end of summer, followed by an obligatory dormancy/chilling period, after which flowers emerge. It is well known that there is large, genetically determined variation in yield in strawberry that is largely determined by the production of flowering shoots from axillary meristems during the floral initiation process. While we have identified major players controlling floral initiation and the production of flowering shoots in the model strawberry, Fragaria vesca, comparative molecular studies should be done between lines of the octoploid strawberry to improve yield.

Objectives and approaches

Based on the current knowledge in the model strawberry, this student will carry out detailed physiological studies combined with molecular analyses of candidate genes in the octoploid strawberry lines with contrasting number of flowering shoots.

To test the gene functions in octoploid strawberry, two candidate genes will be manipulated using gene-editing technology, and the edited lines will be tested in a controlled climate. Understanding the key molecular processes that underpin floral initiation will facilitate the selection of high yielding lines and optimisation of the propagation processes which in turn will deliver plant material to growers that have higher yield potential. This is necessary since yield is still a primary limiting factor to enhanced profitability for growers, especially in programmed cropping systems.


The successful candidate will gain a wide range of experience in plant genetics, breeding, genomics and gene functional analysis.


Anyone interested should fill the online application form before the deadline of 17th June 2022. If need further help or clarification, please contact recruitmentctp@niab.com.

Contact Prof Dan Sargent for an informal discussion on research contents.