Post-doc Plant physiology root-shoot and tip burn

Research / Academic
Are you that enthusiastic researcher that likes fundamental research on the physiology of plants grown under fully controlled conditions? Together with a consortium of an inter-disciplinary team of researchers and companies, we are starting a large research programme of 17 PhDs/Postdocs entitled 'Sky High: Vertical farming, a revolution in plant production'.

Vertical farming is a novel technology where plants are grown on many stacked layers with LED light. The ambition of the vertical farming industry is to warrant a secure and sustainable vegetable supply: no pesticides, no nutrient emission, only 2-4 litres water per kg produce, at least twentyfold less land use, lower food mileage, less waste and lower energy use per kg produce compared to greenhouses. Within the vertical farming research teams of HPP, this particular post-doc project will use a Functional-Structural Plant (FSP) modelling approach to gain fundamental understanding of two plant physiological phenomena relevant in the context of vertical farming: (i) root-shoot signaling and (ii) tip-burn. (i) In horticulture little attention has been paid to rooting media properties like root penetration resistance, which can directly affect plant morphology. That is, plants respond to perceived mechanical perturbations by modifying their morphology, a process called thigmomorphogenesis. Thigmomorphogenesis can occur on the location of perturbation, but within minutes a sudden drop in elongation growth can also be observed far away from the perturbed area. There are different hypotheses for the mechanisms behind this "long-distance signalling". Next to hormonal and electrical mechanisms, a popular hypothesis revolves around hydraulic pulses being responsible for rapid long-distance communication in plants. This hypothesis has however not been tested. To address this question, we will assess the dose response relation between root penetration resistance and leaf elongation rates. A dose and duration dependent relationship between the intensity of compressive force and thigmomorphogenetic response has already been established for shoots, but is lacking for roots. (ii) Tipburn, i.e. brown necrotic edges of the leaves, is a widespread problem in the production of leafy vegetables. The phenomenon is highly unpredictable and effective control procedures are lacking. Vertical farming opens up possibilities to grow leafy vegetables without tipburn, however this potential is not yet realised. Tipburn is generally considered as a consequence of local calcium (Ca) deficiency resulting in faster cell wall degradation, loss of membrane integrity and premature senescence. Understanding tipburn requires understanding of calcium distribution which is directly related to transpiration distribution in the plant. We will conduct experiments in order to develop a Functional-Structural Plant (FSP) model for lettuce, allowing localised simulation of carbon, water and Ca flow which is a unique scientific challenge. Your role as post-doc will be on the experimental part of these research lines using lettuce and basil as model species. You will work in close collaboration with a specialized modeler who will build the Functional-Structural Plant models which will be developed simultaneously.


We are looking for result-driven team player with creative ideas, excellent communication skills as well as good proficiency in English (both oral and written). This position requires an excellent English language proficiency (a mininum of CEFR C1 level). For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page.
  • You have a PhD in plant sciences and you have published some high-quality papers in peer-reviewed journals.
  • You enjoy supervising BSc, MSc and PhD students and have excellent collaboration skills.
  • You are capable to operate in an international and multi-disciplinary environment.
  • You have proven a profound knowledge of measuring techniques and analysing physiological processes.
  • You have a strong affinity with building research tools and setups for plant experiments under fully controlled conditions.
  • You have proven a profound knowledge of measuring techniques and analysing physiological processes.
  • Although the focus will be on fundamental experimental plant physiology, you should be well capable to translate and communicate your research findings with companies working in the vertical farming industry.

Salary Benefits:

We are offering an exciting and challenging position for 3 years. A challenging position with, depending on your experience, a competitive salary from a minimum of €2.790,- to a maximum of €4.402,- for a full working week of 38 hours in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement Wageningen University (scale 10). We offer you a temporary contract for 12 months which will be extended if you perform well.

In addition, we offer:
  • 8% holiday allowance;
  • an end-of-the-year bonus of 8.3% of your annual salary
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • flexible working hours and holidays can possibly be determined in consultation so that an optimal balance between work and private life is possible;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
  • make use of the sports facilities on campus for a small fee.
Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with our internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for personal initiative in a learning environment. With us you get a versatile job in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere, with students and staff from over 100 countries around the world.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the "Best University" in the Netherlands for the 15th consecutive time.
Work Hours:

38 hours per week