Plant and Invertebrate Ecology
Plant Biodiversity and Population Genetics
Leader: Dr Angela Karp
We are investigating plants and associated organisms in arable and energy crop agro-ecosystems to provide underpinning science for the development of sustainable management practises that maximise environmental benefits whilst maintaining economically viable productivity.
Scientifically, this is an ambitious goal in which a major challenge is the identification of a stepwise progression of tractable problems. We are focusing on identifying and exploiting traits of functional significance; agronomic traits for genetic improvement of energy crops and ecological traits for management of farmland biodiversity. There is little prior knowledge and genomic tools or resources for many species under study and an immediate challenge will be to exploit the advances made in model organisms.
We achieved significant advances over four years. Bayesian programmes developed were used to assess substructure in populations (e.g. willow beetles). Seven willow varieties were bred, QTLs for yield and rust resistance identified, host/pathogen relations determined and attraction to willow beetles characterised in terms of leaf biochemistry. We provided data for development of models predicting the competitive impact of target weeds, and their population dynamics, and successfully developed a framework for allocating arable plants into groups based on their eco-physiology and phenology. The molecular bases of two resistance phenotypes were identified.
Staff and their interests
Making inferences about population structure and genealogy from genotypic data, using Bayesian methods. Analyzing models of the dynamics of genotypes in populations, under selection, recombination and drift.
Development and use of molecular marker technologies for improvement of short rotation coppice willow as a biomass crop, both in terms of increasing yield and improving resistance to pest and disease pressures. Molecular markers such as microsatellites, AFLPs, ESTs and SNPs are developed and utilised in linkage mapping and quantitative trait loci (QTL) analyses aimed at downstream marker-assisted selections and characterisation of agronomically important genes.
Dr Angela Karp
Use of molecular genetic techniques and approaches based on genomics to study genetic variation, population biology and evolutionary change in relation to crop improvement, genetic resources, biodiversity, agro-ecology and weed biology.
Herbicide resistance and agro-ecology of weeds of arable crops. Characterisation of herbicide resistance incidence, mechanisms, genetics, evolution, diagnostics and management. Actively involved in technology transfer initiatives aimed at assisting regulatory organisations, farmers and the agrochemical industry to prevent and manage resistance.
Agronomy and crop physiology with experience working in UK cropping systems. Experience in plant breeding with lupin crops and currently with willows; manages projects on biomass crops for energy.
Dr Jonathan Storkey
Trait based approach to understanding the inter-specific variation in weed competitiveness. Identification of weed functional types which have a low competition index while offering benefits for higher trophic levels.
Biodiversity issues relating to crop conservation and improvement programmes such as breeding biomass willows. The current project involves development and application of genetic molecular marker technology such as multiplexed fluorescent AFLP and SSRs.