Providing a sufficient quantity of high quality, nutritious food to the ever-increasing world population is one of the major challenges facing agriculture today. Superimposed on that demand is the challenge of achieving that increased productivity against a background of climate change and reduced availability of basic resources such as energy and water.
Our work on plant defence speaks directly to that agenda.
So it's essential that wherever possible, advances in basic plant science can be translated into solutions that can contribute to the sustainable intensification of agriculture.
By having a better understanding of the biology of plant stress responses, we aim to provide approaches to crop protection
that rely less on pesticides and other synthetic chemicals, and more on crop plants'
own inherent defence capabilities.
A prime example of this is our work on jasmonate seed treatments. Jasmonates are a family of compounds involved in the regulation of plant defence.
The University filed a patent to protect the IP surrounding this discovery, and with the help of a technology transfer company, Plant Biosciences Ltd, the technology was been licensed to Becker Underwood, a company who specialise in seed treatments. Becker Underwood successfully integrated it into their range of products, resulting in royalty income into the University. In 2012, Becker Underwood were acquired by BASF to form their Functional Crop Care division.
I have been involved in projects led by Nigel Paul (LEC) to investigate the efficacy and mode of action of novel crop protection products developed by Plant Impact plc. In particular, we have confirmed that their 'Alethea' technology enhances plant salinity tolerance. Molecular and physiological sudies have shown that one of the ways in which Alethea works is via protection of the photosynthetic apparatus from oxidative stress. Read more...
The use of technologies such as Alethea, which is one of a new breed of products based on natural compounds known as 'plant activators,' should help to increase crop yields whilst minimising the use of environmentally-damaging synthetic chemicals.