Our research explores new ways to improve yields, the efficiency of using resources, stress tolerance, and the nutritional and economic value in crops.
On a global scale, yields of wheat and other key crops must rise to meet increases in food demand from land whose natural ecosystems also need protection. Likewise, the conversion of inputs to outputs and resistance to diseases and pests must improve if significant gains in farming productivity and profitability are to be achieved. We also need to climate-proof wheat and other cereals, and enhance their nutritional quality, to address problems of both under- and over-nutrition.
How can we accelerate improvements in yield, quality and resource efficiency of wheat and other cereal crops?
We apply an inter-disciplinary approach to understand and improve Genetic traits and their interactions with the Environment and crop Management (G x E x M). Our aim is to develop novel germplasm, characterised for the next generation of key traits and provide it in a readily accessible form to the wider plant science and breeding communities. We focus on several traits:
- yield (plant architecture and development, carbohydrates)
- nutrient use efficiency (nitrogen and phosphorus)
- resistance to diseases and insect pests
- climate change adaptation (heat)
- healthier and nutritious cereals (micronutrient, soluble fibre)
Modern plant science must also deliver additional value to farmers and society with crops that offer a wide range of nutritional and industrial applications. Agriculture can become a great source of innovations for expanding the wider bioeconomy.
What novel traits and organisms could substantially improve the nutritional, health or industrial value of plants?
We aim to deliver novel traits in bespoke crops as alternative cropping options with high value for advancing the bioeconomy in the UK and abroad. A first pipeline focuses on redesigning lipid metabolism for such products as crop-grown marine oil substitutes, designer oilseeds for infant nutrition, forages with higher lipid content, wax esters for industrial applications. A second pipeline aims to produce new willow varieties designed to accumulate added-value molecules for industrial applications from pharmaceutical compounds to bulk phenolics.