Activity 5 - Support for the “sandwich PhD” program

Wageningen UR commonly educates students to a Wageningen PhD degree with students from developing countries only spending part of their time in Wageningen. This program fits the needs of DPRK very well, as it would allow the creation of a truly long term and mutually beneficial relationship between AAS and Wageningen UR, and move the country away from its academic isolation.

For this purpose this EU funding will be used to support the stay in Wageningen of two PhD students for a total of 1.5 years. A normal PhD in the Netherlands takes 4 years and other funding has been secured to ensure at least one additional half year at Wageningen. Activity 6 is needed to allow the students to continue their research for the two years they are working in DPRK. Thus, with the support of this Action these two students can spend 50% of their education at Wageningen as is necessary for the sandwich PhD model and be effective in DPRK itself as well.

The topics of the sandwich PhD projects will be on analyzing both the resistant potato and virulent disease side of potato late blight in the context of what is relevant for DPRK. It appears from the first assessment that DPRK possesses a unique type of endemic late blight which is of high interest to the Wageningen group.

One of the activities of the two PhD students is testing late light resistant clones for agricultural performance in DPRK. Three late blight resistant potato clones, with high agricultural value in the Netherlands, will be tested for their agricultural performance and resistance to late blight in DPRK by AAS and local institutes.

It is known from past experiences that many Dutch varieties are performing well in DPRK. So it is reasonable to expect that at least one of these 3 clones could be useful for DPRK. These 3 clones are already shipped to DPRK and will be tested for absence of quarantine diseases by DPRK authorities. In 2010 mini-tubers will be available for multiplication and first small field trials. Late blight resistant clones from DPRK will be shipped to the Netherlands and, after quarantine testing, they will be tested for late blight resistance with Dutch isolates and later in the field. Crosses will be made with susceptible clones for inheritance studies of this resistance. This information can be used later for marker-assisted selection in conventional breeding and for molecular breeding.