Junior Research Scientist in plant breeding for crop mixtures


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INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (INRAE) is a public research establishment under the dual authority of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Research.

INRAE is recruiting researchers by open competition and offering permanent position.

It is a major player in research and innovation created on 1st of January 2020. INRAE is a research institute resulting from the merger of INRA and IRSTEA. It is a community of 12,000 people with more than 200 research units and 42 experimental units located throughout France.

The institute is among the world leaders in agricultural and food sciences, in plant and animal sciences, and is 11th in the world in ecology and environment. INRAE’s main goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. In the face of the increase in population, climate change, scarcity of resources and decline in biodiversity, the institute develops solutions for multiperformance agriculture, high quality food and sustainable management of resources and ecosystems.

Work environment, missions and activities

You will be welcomed into INRAE's Pluridisciplinary Research Unit for Grasslands and Forage Plants (UR P3F), based in Lusignan (86), which mobilizes skills in plant genetics and ecophysiology to analyze the functioning of grasslands and sown lawns and propose solutions to adapt them to the challenges of agro-ecological transition in a changing climate. It has a staff of 36, including 13 scientists, and welcomes some 60 temporary employees every year. It has extensive experimental resources, enabling it to carry out experiments in the field, greenhouses and growth chambers, as well as chemical analyses and genotyping in collaboration with various platforms. Forage varieties are synthetics of considerable diversity, and are increasingly sown in mixtures of different species. This gives greater agronomic value and production stability in changing environments. Optimizing varieties in such mixtures remains a challenge in order to ensure the maintenance of the different species, and in particular the balance between grasses and legumes. The aim of the research project is to develop innovative breeding methods for these forage species, given that they will be used in mixtures. The research to be developed will be based on questions of quantitative genetics, but will also be based on a mecanistic understanding of the relationships among plants with ecophysiologist URP3F colleagues and possibly on ecology principles . They will include a share of theoretical developments, but will also rely on experimentation to validate theoretical models and help initiate pilot breeding projects.

The main initial objectives of the research project will be as follows:
(i) The recruited scientist will seek to establish the link between the statistical model of quantitative genetics built for selection in species mixtures (Sampoux et al. 2020) and the mechanistic approaches to ecophysiology developed within the unit. This individual-centered approach should provide the means to model the value of mixtures based on the multi-trait distribution for each species.

In this way, the functional traits that are essential for the productivity and stability of inter-specific mixtures, and on which breeding schemes should focus their efforts, will be identified.For each species in the mixture, the distribution required for these traits (mono- / multi-modal, mode averages and their variance: planned intraspecific diversity) will be determined as a function of the mixture components.The scientist will then assess the extent to which these traits could be selected indirectly in mono-specific stands or in spaced plants where interactions between plants are low.

(ii) The scisntist will develop genomic prediction models for important functional traits in species mixtures, in order to limit the experimental effort required.

(iii) He/she will choose a finalized target (species-diversified forage prairie, complex perennial prairie cover for annual cash crops, etc.) and contribute to the development of a breeding program for this target. This work could include perennial grasses (ryegrass, orchardgrass, fescue) and legumes (alfalfa, clover) usually used in forage breeding, as well as other less-used prairie species. This breeding program will provide the unit with experimental data to document its theoretical approaches, and could ultimately be used as a proof of concept to evaluate progress made in terms of services rendered in the field and in cropping systems. This breeding program will be developed in close collaboration with FERLUS and possibly with breeders (Agri-Obtentions, Cérience, other ACVF breeding companies) or foreign academic partners known for their motivation on this type of issue (ILVO)."

Training and skills

PhD or equivalent

The scientific skills required are those of Quantitative Genetics (code D2A in the scientific disciplines reference system).

A very good knowledge of this discipline is required.The recruited scientist must have a good knowledge of selection theory in plant breeding (knowledge of the different selection methods, mastery of the concepts and tools used to evaluate and compare selection schemes).He/she should be proficient in the use of linear mixed models to predict the genetic value of candidate genotypes for selection (particularly genomic prediction models).
Basic training in agronomy would be desirable, with a good knowledge of plant ecophysiology and, if possible, functional ecology. He/she should be able to use various programming languages such as R and Python. Knowledge of the principles of high-throughput genotyping and associated bioinformatics tools for determining allelic variants (necessary for the study of genomic selection models) is also required.

INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from:

- 30 days of annual leave + 15 days "Reduction of Working Time" (for a full time);
- parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
- skills development systems: training, career advise;
- social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
- holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
sports and cultural activities;
- collective catering.

For international scientists: please visit your guide to facilitate your arrival and stay at INRAE

All persons employed by or hosted at INRAE, a public research establishment, are subject to its internal regulations, particularly with regard to the obligation of neutrality and respect for the principle of secularism. In carrying out their functions, whether or not they are in contact with the public, they must not express their religious, philosophical or political convictions through their behaviour or by what they wear.  

Offer reference

  • Profile number: CR-2024-BAP-4
  • Corps: CR
  • Category: A
  • Open competition number: 17
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