School of Biosciences

Image of John Foulkes

John Foulkes

Associate Professor, Faculty of Science


  • workRoom 312 South Laboratory
    Sutton Bonington Campus
    Sutton Bonington
    LE12 5RD
  • work0115 951 6024
  • fax0115 951 6060



Ph.D. Crop Physiology. University of Wales, Aberystwyth 1991

BSc (hons) Agricultural Science. University of Leeds BSc (Hons) (2,1) 1986

Posts held

2008 - present: Associate Professor Crop Science, Division of Plant and Crop Sciences, University of Nottingham.

2004 -2008: Senior Research Fellow, Division of Plant and Crop Sciences, University of Nottingham.

1994 - 2004: Research Associate, Division of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, University of Nottingham.

1991 - 1994: Higher Scientific Officer, National Institute Agricultural Botany, Cambridge.

Expertise Summary

My research interests fall into two main areas: cereals physiology and sustainable agriculture. Current research areas include:

  • Identifying traits, mechanisms and genetic markers to improve nitrogen-use efficiency and water-use efficiency in cereals
  • Exploring diversity for biomass and nitrogen-use efficiency in pre-breeding germplasm (ancestral introgressions, synthetic derivatives and landraces) in wheat
  • Understanding the developmental, genetic and physiological bases of ear fertility in wheat
  • Developing high-throughput phenotyping approaches for root system architecture and canopy photosynthesis traits

Teaching Summary

I convene the following module:

Field Crops Cereals (D235A5), Level 3. This module covers the structure and function of the Gramineae and the influence of the environment on crop growth and development and production strategies for the major grain cereal with particular emphasis on factors controlling yield and quality.

I also contribute to the following modules:

Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants (D23BA7)

Current Issues in Crop Science (D236A3)

World Agroecosystems (D224P4)

Research Summary

My research focuses on understanding the processes determining the physiological and genetic bases of yield potential and resource-use efficiency (nitrogen and water) in wheat.

Nitrogen-Use Efficiency: Recent research (Gaju et al., 2011; Pask et al. 2012, Gaju et al , Field Crops Research in press) has quantified N requirements of wheat canopies and shown how N-use efficiency is related to stay-green properties associated with canopy N dynamics. Research has addressed how N requirements of wheat varieties are related to capacity for minimizing non-functional reserve N storage and maximizing photosynthetic capacity per unit N uptake. Ongoing work in the BBSRC WISP programme 'Enhancing diversity in UK wheat through a public sector prebreeding programme' focuses on phenotyping pre-breeding wheat germplasm (ancestral introgressions, landraces and synthetic derivatives).

Water-Use Efficiency: Research on understanding the traits determining water-use efficiency and drought tolerance in DERFA Wheat Genetics Improvement Network (2009-13) is quantifying genetic variation in transpiration and transpiration efficiency according to an integrated analysis of 12/13C and 16/18O isotopic ratios in leaf and grain tissues (Aravinda Kumar et al., 2011). The investigation of rooting traits has focused understanding the critical root length densities and optimum root distribution with depth for potential water capture (Carvalho et al., in progress J. Integrative Plant Biol., in press)

Ear fertility and Yield Potential: Recent novel research has defined effects of the tiller-inhibition 1A gene on spikelet primordia production and floret fertility processes in wheat. Current research joint with CIMMYT in the International Wheat Yield Consortium is investigating optimizing dry matter partiioining in the booting to anthesis developmental for imprroved spike fertility and the genetic control of spike fertility.

Post-Doctoral Research Fellows:

Dr Pedro Carvalho (EUFP7 EuRoot and ERC Future Roots projects)

Dr Reshmi Gaju (BBSRC WISP project)

Technical Team:

Mr Jayalath DeSilva (BBSRC WISP project)

PhD Students (main supervisor):

Mr Ali Amamou "Identifying genetic diversity for biomass and N-use efficiency in wheat" (Yr 2) (Islamic Bank)

Ms Petra ApplenKock "Identifying traits conferring improved disease tolerance of S. Tritici in wheat" (Yr 2) (Teagasc)

Ms Thanita Boomsrangson Exploiting genetic diversity for large-ear phenotype for yield potential in wheat (Yr 2) (Thailand government)

Ms Shaunagh Keating "Investigating rooting traits for improved for water uptake and water-use efficiency in wheat" (Yr 1 ) (ERC)

Mr Yadgar Mahmood "Physilogucoa,and genetic basis of drought tolerance in wheat" (Yr 2) Kurdistan government

Ms Carolina Rivera (Nottingham/CIMMYT) "Optimizing DM partitioning to maximize grain number and HI in wheat (Yr 2) (CONACYT/CIMMYT)

Mr Eliseo Trujillo (CONACYT)Optimizing source-sink balance for improved grain number and HI in wheat (Yr 2) (CONACYT/CIMMYT)

Current Research Projects

BBSRC 2011-2015 Wheat Improvement Strategic Programme (WISP): Phenotyuing Theme (PI)

BBSRC SCRIPID 2012-2016 Exploitation of Inter-specific Biodiversity for Wheat Improvement (Co-I.)

DEFRA 2009-2013 Wheat Genetic Improvement Network (WGIN, Activity 9 Drought tolerance) (PI)

ERC 2012-2016 FUTUREROOTS: Redesigning root architecture for improved crop performance (Co-I).

EUFP7 2012-2016 EUROOT: Enhancing resource Uptake from Roots under stress in cereal crops (Co-I).

EU Demonstration Project 2012-2016 ACLIMAS Adaptation to Climate Change of the Mediterranean Agricultural Systems (PI)

BBSRC-LINK Screening for costs of disease resistance caused by stomatal dysfunction 2010-2014 (PI)

DEFRA Integrated management of disease 2012-2016 (PI)

Recent Publications

Gaju, O., Allard V., Martre, P., Le Gouis, J., Moreau, D. Bogard, M. Hubbart, S. Foulkes, M.J. 2013. Nitrogen partitioning and remobilization in relation to leaf senescence in wheat cultivars. Field Crops Res., in press.

Carvalho, P., Azam-Ali, S. and Foulkes, M.J. 2013. Quantifying relationships between rooting traits and water uptake under drought in Mediterranean barley and durum wheat J. Integr.Plant Biol., in press.

Bogard, M., Allard, V., Martre, P., Heumez, E., Snape, J.W., Griffiths, S., Orford, S. and Gaju, O., Foulkes, M.J., LeGouis, J. 2013. Identifying wheat genomic regions for improving grain protein concentration independently of grain yield using multiple inter-related populations Mol. Breed.. 31, 587-599.

Pask, A.J.D., Sylvester-Bradley, R., Jamieson, P.D. and Foulkes, M.J., 2012. Quantifying how winter wheat crops accumulate and use nitrogen reserves during growth Field Crops Res. 126, 104-118.

Moreau, D., Allard, V., Gaju, O., LeGouis, J., Foulkes, M.J. and Martre, P., 2012. Acclimation of leaf nitrogen to vertical light gradient at anthesis in wheat is a whole-plant process that scales with canopy size. Plant Physiol. 160, 1479-1490

Gaju O, Allard, V, Martre, P., Snape, JW, Heumez, E, LeGouis, J., Moreaub, D., Bogard, M., Griffiths, S., Orford, S., Hubbart, S., Foulkes, M.J. 2011. Identification of traits to improve the nitrogen-use efficiency of wheat genotypes Field Crops Res. 129, 139-154.

Foulkes, MJ, Slafer, GA, Davies, W, Berry, P, Sylvester-Bradley, R, Martre P, Calderini, D., Reynolds, MP. 2011 Raising yield potential in wheat: Optimizing partitioning to grain yield . J Exp. Bot. 60, 1899-1918

Kumar, A., Azan-Ali, S.N., Snape, J.W, Weightman, R and Foulkes MJ. 2011. Relationships between carbon-isotope discrimination and grain yield in wheat under well watered and drought conditions. J Agric Sci, Camb 149, 257-272.

Foulkes, MJ , Hawkesford, MJ, Barraclough, PB, Holdsworth, MJ, Kerr, S, Kightley, S & Shewry, PR. (2009). Identifying traits to improve the nitrogen economy of wheat: Recent advances and future prospects. Field Crops Res 114, 329-342.

Selected Publications

  • SPINK, J. H., KIRBY, E. J. M., FROST, D. L., SYLVESTER-BRADLEY, R., SCOTT, R. K., FOULKES, M. J., CLARE, R. W. and EVANS, E. J., 2000. Agronomic implications of variation in wheat development due to variety, sowing date, site and season Plant Varieties and Seeds. VOL 13(PART 2), 91-106
  • PASK, A.J.D., SYLVESTER-BRADLEY, R., JAMIESON, P.D. and FOULKES, M.J., 2012. Quantifying how winter wheat crops accumulate and use nitrogen reserves during growth Field Crops Research. 126, 104-118

Past Research

Recent Research Projects

BBSRC-INRA 2006-2010 Identification of traits and markers for reducing the N requirement and improving the grain protein concentration in winter wheat (PI)

BBSRC IPA (Collaboration with KWS UK Ltd) 2006-2010 Raising the ceiling on UK wheat yields - introgression and assessment of novel 'large-ear' CIMMYT germplasm into UK pre-breeding lines' (PI)

DEFRA-LINK 2006-2011 Identification of genetic markers to reduce the nitrogen requirement of oilseed rape (PI)

EU FP6 2005-2008 Management improvements of water use efficiency and nitrogen use efficiency of Mediterranean strategic crops (Co-I)

School of Biosciences

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Nr Loughborough
LE12 5RD, UK

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