Leverhulme Research Fellow, University of Nottingham

Category: Publications

What do plants need to grow well?

In our recently accepted article, we discuss the stressors that limit plant growth in Earth and Space. With future space missions to Mars predicted to last 3+ years, how do we ensure that astronauts are able to fulfill their dietary needs?

Conditions in Space are highly variable compared to that on Earth. Extremes in temperature, dangerous radiation and lack of easily accessible or transportable resources means that engineering solutions are critical to support planetary exploration. But what does this mean for our plants? In comparison to conditions in Space, Earth is relatively sheltered, and as such, plants have adapted to almost all conditions and environments. But life on Earth also comes with some restrictions and there is little evidence to understand the response to plants once these restrictions are removed.

Our review, ‘Eustress in Space: Opportunities for Plant Stressors beyond the Earth Ecosystem’, provides an overview of the different stressors imposed on plants on Earth and in Space. But this also raises an intriguing question; can Space conditions be exploited to improve plant growth?

Hidden Hunger: the importance on nutritional quality

An expanding population requires both an increase in the amount of food that we produce from our agricultural systems but also improvements to the quality of that food. Such advances will be integral to preventing nutrient deficiencies, also known as ‘hidden hunger’. As part of a European consortium of researchers under the Horizon 2020 funded CropBooster-P programme, we have identified how the nutritional quality of crops and the bioavailability of individual nutrients can be optimised, including the genetic control behind such improvements. This highlight possibilities for the future improvement of or plant products whilst highlighting how a more diverse crop range with improved nutritional profile could help to shift to healthier and more sustainable plant-based diets.

Read the full paper here.

How do we measure light in canopies?

In recently published work, joint with Maxime Durand, Matthew Robson and Baiba Matule at the University of Helsinki, we present a new method for measuring changes in light intensity and spectral quality in field environments. Using a high-resolution spectroradiometer, it is possible to record a time-series of light and use a mathematical framework to pull out information about the changes experienced. This indicates that shorter, rather than longer, periods of light known as ‘sunflecks’ contribute the most to irradiance experienced by plants. We also show how different species and canopy positions alter the characteristics of this light.

Publish your work on sustainable production of crops in this special issue!

With an expanding population and unknown consequence of climate change, improving the sustainability of our cropping systems is integral to optimising yields and limiting any further negative impacts of agriculture on the environment.

This special issue in the journal Sustainability, deadline November 1st 2021, aims to publish high-quality research papers on methods to increase the sustainability of our agricultural systems, whether by alternative cropping practices (i.e. intercropping, agroforestry, vertical farming), urban systems, new improved crop varieties, innovative technologies to reduce inputs or through the development of new methods to assess the productivity and sustainability of our cropping systems. As a large proportion of the population are in developing countries with differing constraints to agricultural production (i.e. poor quality soils, low input agriculture, subsidence farming) papers are desired that cover a wide range of different environments and locations with differing amounts of resources or technology required.

For more information click here.

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