LEC glasshouses

Plant and Crop Science

We combine cutting-edge research in plant science, from the molecular to the crop scale, working closely with research users.


With the global population expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, there is a pressing need to secure access to sufficient safe and nutritious food for everyone. We combine cutting-edge research in plant science, from the molecular to the crop scale, with other disciplines in both the natural and social sciences. By working closely with research users, our research has a clear, practical focus on sustainable agriculture and so can help address the ecological, economic and social challenges facing crop production in a rapidly changing global environment.

Plant and crop


Our research spans plant interactions with their biotic (pest and diseases) and abiotic (atmospheric pollutants, light, nutrients and water) environment. Current projects include:

  • Determining the molecular basis of “stress memory” in plants and its impacts on future defence responses
  • Specificity in stress signalling pathways to understand the cellular/molecular basis of plant stress tolerance
  • Root growth and molecular responses to amino acids
  • Nitrate sensing by the root and its influence on root architecture
  • Volatile organic compounds as signalling molecules
  • Physiological and whole plant responses to short wavelength solar UV (UV-B radiation)
  • plant responses to atmospheric and rhizosphere CO2 enrichment
  • Long distance phytohormonal signalling of drought stress
  • plant water relations
  • Ozone impacts on stomatal physiology
  • Ecology of interactions between plants and their natural enemies (invertebrate herbivores or pathogenic microbes) in non-crop systems
  • Rhizobacterial effects on phytohormone status

Plant and crop

This fundamental work has been exploited to improve crop yields and resource use efficiency in agriculture via

  • Irrigation techniques that improve “crop per drop”
  • Seed priming techniques that enhance pest resistance
  • New types of cladding plastics for protected crop production
  • Microbial inoculants

Research within the Plant and Crop Sciences is supported by modern laboratories for molecular biology, cell biology and plant physiology. Specialised equipment includes

Infra-red gas analysers equipment for plant water relations research including whole plant pressure chambers and various chromatography systems (HPLC, GC, LC-MS). Plant growth facilities include 15 naturally lit (but with supplementary lighting) greenhouse compartments (each comprising 9m2 growing space)

Plant and crop

10 walk-in controlled environment rooms (each comprising 6m2 growing space) and 6 high specification growth cabinets (each comprising 3m2 growing space)

Ozone fumigation chambers and UV radiation facilities

Field work is undertaken at nearby Myerscough college (where plastic houses act as rainout shelters)