Modelling soil-borne disease of potato

Development of a decision support system for improved management and prediction of soil-borne potato diseases

Degree type


Closing date

1 February 2023



Citizenship requirement



$31,500pa for 3.5 years

About the research project

Potato industries often rely on prophylactic pesticide applications for control of soil-borne disease. This is largely in absence of a good understanding of the dynamics of disease development. Disease predictive tools provide growers with a decision support system that would enabling most efficient use of interventions to improve disease control and productivity.

This PhD will:

Generate a deep understanding of the dynamic drivers of disease development for two key soil-borne diseases (powdery scab and pink rot) and use this information to develop predictive and monitoring systems for these diseases in situ. A new predictive system will focus on key parameters of the disease triad in its development, integrating measurements of:

  • Pathogen (including initial inoculum inputs from soil and seed tubers and population development in soil and plant tissues),
  • Host (including real-time measurement of root function through hydrological conductivity assessment and spectral crop monitoring), and
  • Environment (including rainfall, air temperature monitoring, EMS soil mapping, soil monitors for soil moisture and temperature).

In addition to contemporary control of the target diseases, the models will have value in assessment of the likely impact of climate change, by enabling modelling of changes in air and soil temperature and rainfall, and for preparedness for novel pathogen incursions providing a suitable base to estimate likelihood of impact of such an incursion.

This PhD will work within a dedicated internationally renown potato pathology research team in collaboration with researchers and support personnel from Simplot, a major international potato industry partner. The project may require international travel to work with collaborators in the US.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Professor Calum Wilson


The successful applicant will receive a scholarship which provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • The scholarship is open to Domestic/ International/ Onshore applicants
  • Research must be undertaken on a full-time basis
  • Applications are encouraged from candidates with plant pathology, plant physiology, microbiology discipline backgrounds
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong research and analytical skills
  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • High levels of knowledge and research skills in a relevant discipline
  • Excellence in written and oral communication
  • A valid drivers licence or capacity to obtain one

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience in field, glasshouse and laboratory based research
  • Experience in biological modelling and disease prediction
  • Experience in research with soil-borne plant pathogens

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Professor Calum Wilson to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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