Foteini Pashalidou Lab is looking for a Phd student to work on plant-plant communication on rapeseed, starting in October 2022.

General background to the topic: Over the past decades, the scientific literature has strongly described the need for new preventive approaches to achieve sustainable pest management1 . One of the main reasons is that pest control based on pesticides alone provides only short-term help and has undesirable economic and environmental consequences2 . Furthermore, natural plant signals can be used in Integrated Pest Management to develop alternatives to chemical pesticides, for example by using them to stimulate plant defences3 .

Indeed, plants can detect the volatile organic compounds of their neighbours associated with herbivory, a phenomenon called “priming”. Priming, occurs when prior exposure to a biotic or abiotic cue (i.e. early warning cues) “alerts” a plant to express a more effective defence response to insect attack. Primed plants show faster and/or stronger activation of their various defence responses induced by insect attack.

We have recently shown that the annual brassica plant, black mustard (Brassica nigra), responds to early warning signals associated with oviposition and Oviposition Induced Plant Volatiles (OIPVs) emitted by undamaged neighbouring plants infested with moth eggs (Pieris brassicae).Focal Brassica nigra plants can detect the volatiles produced by egg-infested plants in their vicinity and these volatiles not only form the main defences of the focal recipient plant, but also stimulate changes in life cycle strategies, i.e. a rapid transition from growth to reproduction that improves fitness. This means that B. nigra plants exposed to OIPVs produce a higher number of seeds and flowers, and hinder the performance of herbivores compared to plants exposed to OIPVs4,5,6 .

General objectives of the thesis: The general objective of the project is to improve biological control in the context of integrated pest management on one of the most important agricultural crops: oilseed rape (Brassica napus). Coupled with the increasing demand, it is essential for the design of modern biocontrol methods to “learn from nature” and improve crop protection strategies that can combine plant defences with the properties and potentials of a cropping system. In this project, we will test intra- and interspecific priming of plant defences of Brassica napus spp. oleifera L. by neighbouring plants.

Interviews will take place in the first week of July and the candidate should start in October 2022. The thesis is funded for 3 years. The thesis is funded by AAPG2020 JCJC grand title oilseedprime

Work programme: We will test the effect of intra- and inter-specific priming of plant volatiles induced by oviposition in oilseed rape in laboratory experiments, where we will use black mustard (B. nigra) to test inter-specific priming of oilseed rape (Brassica napus spp. oleifera L.). The collection and analysis of plant volatiles between the different treatments will be carried out in collaboration with Alan Kergunteuil at INRAE/UL – UMR LAE, Nancy. We will then test the effects of intra- and inter-specific priming against pests and their parasitoids in oilseed rape in a 2- year field experiment

Skills appreciated:

– Some experience in behavioural ecology and organic chemistry.

– Some experience in statistics and R


– English

– Location: UMR Agronomy, Paris Saclay

– Possibility of accommodation on site

– Standard salary of a Phd student in France

– No need for a B licence



1. Bourguet, D. and Guillemaud, T. 2016. Sustainable Agriculture Reviews. 35-120. Springer, Cham. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-26777-7_2

2. Lewis, W.J., Van Lenteren, J.C., Phatak, S.C. and Tumlinson, J.H., 1997. A total system approach to sustainable pest management. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 94(23), pp.12243- 12248. doi:10.1073/pnas.94.23.12243

3. Yakhin, O.I., Lubyanov, A.A., Yakhin, I.A. and Brown, P.H., 2017. Biostimulants in plant science: a global perspective. Frontiers in plant science, 7, p.2049. doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.02049

4. Pashalidou, F.G., Eyman, L., Sims, J., Buckley, J., Fatouros, N.E., De Moraes, C.M. and Mescher, M.C., 2020a. Plant volatiles induced by herbivore eggs prime defences and mediate shifts in the reproductive strategy of receiving plants. Ecology Letters, in press. doi:10.1111/ele.13509

5. Pashalidou, F.G., Frago, E., Griese, E., Poelman, E.H., van Loon, J.J., Dicke, M. and Fatouros, N.E., 2015c. Early herbivore alert matters: plant-mediated effects of egg deposition on higher trophic levels benefit plant fitness. Ecology letters, 18(9), pp.927-936. doi:10.1111/ele.12470

6. Pashalidou, F.G., Fatouros, N.E., Van Loon, J.J., Dicke, M. and Gols, R., 2015a. Plant-mediated effects of butterfly egg deposition on subsequent caterpillar and pupal development, across different species of wild Brassicaceae. Ecological Entomology, 40(4), pp.444-450. doi:10.1111/een.12208

More info. visit Foteini Pashalidou Lab website

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