Genetics and genomics of sunflower attractiveness for pollinators


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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. 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

Nature and purpose of the research project to be developed and related activities :
In agricultural ecosystems, the sunflower is a major nutritional resource for pollinators, particularly honeybees, and helps reduce their pathogens (LoCascio et al. 2019, Schmitt et al. 2021). However, the attractiveness of varieties and their melliferous capacity varies significantly (Pham-Delègue et al. 1984, Vear et al. 1990) and the genetic bases of these are almost totally unknown.
It is therefore important, in addition to productivity, which remains a major issue, to develop from the resistance profile of environmental pests and tolerance to abiotic stress a concept of extended sunflower phenotype including the attractiveness and nutritional value of nectars and pollen (in particular sugar and proteins) for pollinators and to produce the genetic, physiological, and phenomic knowledge required to improve this extended phenotype.
To achieve this, the person recruited will exploit and develop the resources present at the Sunflower-Soy Biological Resources Centre to study the genetic control of attractiveness for pollinators. A wide genetic diversity enabling GWAS approaches is available in the public sunflower core collection (Mandel et al., 2011). This includes variations in sugar and nectar content, colour of the ligules, or depth of the corolla. This panel is currently expanding thanks to the PEPR project AgroDiv and will be used to study the metabolomic composition of nectar, the depth of the florets (Prasifka et al., 2017), the colour of the ligules (Todesco et al., 2022), and the number of visits from hymenoptera, diptera, and lepidoptera, main pollinators of sunflowers. Furthermore, in addition to the attractiveness, the nutritional quality of the pollen/nectar is of paramount importance. The protein content is a determining factor in the quality of the bee colony. Thus, the variability in protein content of the genetic resources will be analysed. It is known that there is high variation between species but the intra-specific genetic variability has not yet been assessed.
Using a functional genetics and genomics approach, the person recruited will develop the genetic material to validate the causal polymorphisms for these components of attractiveness and nutrition (if variability exists).
Regarding the methodological aspects, the person recruited will participate in the development of methods of phenotyping the attractiveness traits such as the duration of flowering, pollen production, recognition by pollinators and their behaviour from images and videos in conjunction with the Phenotoul platform and in collaboration with bee specialists in Toulouse (INRAE GenPhySE, DYNAFOR, CNRS CRCA) and at national level (INRAE APIS, Environnement et Abeilles).
Finally, as an extension to this work, the candidate will participate in the establishment of criteria for the development of an extended sunflower phenotype including the service to pollinators with the framework of the CTPS.

Nature and purpose of the teaching project :
The teaching project is built in partnership with Toulouse INP-ENSAT. The teaching will help improve the integration of the LIPME in the web of higher education in Toulouse in accordance with INRAE’s General Policy Priority 2.
The person recruited will participate at several levels in the curriculum of agricultural engineering students for 64h/year. In the core curriculum, the professor may join the Genetic Resources and Biodiversity Teaching Unit (1st year) or the “Agricultural science in a context of transition” teaching unit (2nd year). In the second term of the 2nd year, they will participate in the establishment of a teaching unit on the specific theme of genetics and genotype-phenotype-environment interactions or participate in lessons for teaching unit themes “Plant in its environment” or “Biodiversity and Agriculture”. In the 3rd year, the person recruited will reinforce the teaching team on genetics and plant breeding within the framework of the option “Plant Agrobiosciences”.
With its international outlook, specialised lessons at ENSAT in the 2nd and 3rd years could be proposed in English.
The teaching could be supplemented by occasional lessons for the Master’s in Plant Biology (Plant biology and related microorganisms course) and Functional Biology and Ecology (TULIP GS course).

Funding and related resources :
Total financed for JP (including ANR package) : 440 000€
Package INRAE : 60 000€
Others resources : 180 000€
Total : 680 000€

The candidate recruited will participate in experimental networks and collaborations requiring regular trips in France, Europe, and internationally (USA, Canada, Argentina, India)

Training and skills

PhD or equivalent

PhD or equivalent.

• PhD in quantitative and population genetics and genomics, basic knowledge of plant biology.

• Implement and participate in the development of statistical models for quantitative plant genetics and genomics
• Lead a work group, coordinate a project, and work in a team
• Supervise and train engineers and students
• Teaching qualities, use of teaching tools and oral communication in French and English
• Write articles, carry out literature monitoring
• Knowledge of R or python
• Fluent written and spoken English

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.

International scientists, please visit your guide to facilitate your arrival and stay at INRAE.

Type of contract

Tenure-Track Junior Professor Chair enables recruitment of scientists based on a research and teaching project that lasts three years. At the end of this period, and following an assessment of your scientific achievements and professional capabilities, you may obtain a full-tenure position as Research Director (DR2).

A research and teaching agreement will specify the path you will follow towards full-tenure and enable you to acquire the qualifications necessary to become a full-tenure Research Director in your field.

You have until April 12, 2024 to submit your application. Only candidates previously selected on file by the selection committee will be invited to the hearing.

Offer reference

  • Profile number: CPJ24-BAP-1
  • Corps: Chaire de Professeur Junior
  • Category: A
  • Open competition number: 1


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