Ionomics facility projects

The Ionomics Facility works across multiple projects, supporting researchers to conduct experiments. Read more about some of the projects below. 

Ionome versus genome duplication 

Lead researcher: Dr Sina Fischer

This project seeks to understand the genetics behind traits that appear when a whole genome is duplicated. A. thaliana plants with duplicated genome showed enhanced potassium accumulation and better resistance to salinity. We have performed elemental profiling of more than 2300 A. thaliana leaves to help to understand what the genetics behind these traits is. 

This project is funded by the German Research Foundation, Nottingham Research Fellowship and Royal Society grants. 


Cocoa cadmium under control

Lead researchers: Prof David E Salt, Dr David Gopaulchan, Prof Pathmanathan Umaharan (CRC)

This project aims to identify natural genetic variation in cadmium accumulation in cocoa beans to identify rootstocks with a tendency to exclude cadmium. We have quantified the levels of cadmium and other metals in 500 cocoa cultivars that accounted for approximately 5500 analysed samples.

This project is in partnership with the Cocoa Research Centre (CRC), University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. The ionomics part of the project is funded by EPPN2020 and Mars Inc.

Read more about the cocoa project

Microbiome – ionome interactions

Lead researcher: Dr Gabriel Castrillo

This project explores the ways microbiota modify plant root diffusion barriers function and the plant mineral nutrient homeostasis. We have performed an elemental screening of more than 1500 Arabidopsis thaliana shoot samples cultivated with various bacterial strains to unravel interactions between microbiome and ionome. 

This project is funded by Nottingham Research Fellowship and Future Food.


Towards aMAIZEing drought tolerance

Lead researchers: Dr Gabriel Castrillo, Prof Martin Broadley, Assoc Prof Margarida Oliveira (University of Lisbon), PhD student Valeria Custodio

This project explores how the abiotic stresses such as drought affects mineral nutrients homeostasis in maize. In order to understand better the drought tolerance in maize, we have performed an ionomic analysis of leaves of a collection of Zea mays genotypes that represents different levels of adaptation to drought stresses.

This project is in partnership with University of Lisbon and is funded by Future Food and Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia. 


Underused food source - Bambara groundnut 

Lead researchers: Prof Festo Massawe, Assoc Prof Sean Mayes, PhD student Luis Salazar Licea

Bambara groundnut is an African legume that is highly tolerant to drought and poor soils and produces beans with a reasonably high level of protein. However, it is an underutilised crop that has not been studied much despite its great potential for agriculture development and production diversification. This project aims to understand better how different Bambara genotypes translocate mineral nutrients from soil to shoots and seeds and to identify genotypes which beans are high in essential minerals.

This project is supported Future Food and FAO ITPGRFA Benefit Sharing Fund grant held by SM.

Read more about bambara.


WHEATness the improvement

Lead researcher: Dr Aigul Abugalieva (Kazakh Research Institute of Crop Production)

Wheat producers in Kazakhstan face problems such as short growing season and range of unfavourable environmental conditions that cause the grain yields to be low and of uncertain mineral nutrient content. We have performed elemental screening of more than 3600 wheat grains in order to identify the wheat varieties with high mineral nutrient content (especially Zn and Fe) that show better adaptation to challenging environmental conditions of Western Siberia and Northern Kazakhstan

This project is in partnership with the researchers from Kazakh Research Institute of Crop Production and is funded by EPPN2020. 


Duckweed – small plant with big future

Lead researchers:  Dr Anthony Bishopp, Dr Levi Yant

Duckweeds are small, floating aquatic plants that show incredibly fast growth, are great source of proteins and also are able to accumulate excess of nutrients. These features mean that duckweeds have already found several applications such as biofuels, in bioremediation and as a protein source. Their ability to accumulate very high quantities of different mineral nutrients means that duckweeds hold the potential to address malnutrition issue caused by mineral deficiencies. Ionomics studies are therefore important step to understand better how this small plant take up and accumulate mineral nutrients so its potential as source of mineral nutrients can be fully exploited

This project is supported by the Leverhulme Trust and Future Food.

Read more about duckweed


Searching for better grains

Lead researchers: Dr Felipe Ricachenevsky (University of Rio Grande do Sul)

Rice is one of the most important crops feeding nearly half of the world population and it is one of the main focus of ionomics studies due to its low iron and zinc concentrations in grains, making it a target for biofortification (increasing nutrients in grains to improve human nutrition). We have screened approximately 600 lines of a fast neutron-generated mutant rice population to understand rice grain ionome and its underlying physiology and genetics in order to improve rice nutritional quality. 

This project is in partnership with University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) and it is supported by Instituto Serrapilheira, FAPERGS, CNPq, CAPES and UFSM. 


Discovering African population of Arabidopsis thaliana

Lead researcher: Dr Angela Hancock (Max Planck Institute)

In response to different soil compositions and climatic factors that can influence availability of mineral nutrients, plants may evolve to differ in nutrient processing and trace element homeostasis. Arabidopsis thaliana that is broadly distributed across the world is a perfect model to study natural variation as this small plant has adapted to grow in the range of various environments. Using the panel of natural Arabidopsis accessions collected across Africa, this project aims to explore the genetic bases of variation in mineral nutrients processing to understand how plants adapt to living in extreme environments. This knowledge is not only useful to improve our understanding of basic biological and ecological mechanisms but can be also applied to improve crop varieties so that they can withstand harsh conditions. 

This project is in partnership with Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and the ionomics analysis are funded by EPPN2020.


Beware of the beans

Lead researchers: Dr Paulina Flis, Dr Priscila Zaczuk Bassinello (EMBRAPA)

The common bean is a legume widely cultivated and consumed around the world and it is a critical component of global food security. Beans are excellent source of energy and nutrients. Due to high level of genetic diversity they can be exploited by breeding programs to increase their nutritional value. This project aims to perform ionomic screening of 340 of the most diverse bean genotypes, in order to identify bean varieties with increased essential mineral nutrient content that can be further used in the production of novel nutritious snacks.

This project is in partnership with Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) - Embrapa Rice & Beans and it is supported by Future Food.






World-class research at the University of Nottingham

University Park
+44 (0) 115 951 5151
Athena Swan Logo