Abiotic and Biotic Stress

Growing Crops in a Changing Environment:

The research in this strand addresses the challenge of Global Food Security and is focused on understanding the central molecular mechanisms controlling plant responses to abiotic and biotic stresses. The abiotic stresses of waterlogging and drought are key targets, while research on biotic stress involves work on crop disease control using a number of approaches including chemical intervention, analysis of the molecular basis of disease resistance and development of novel molecular techniques for the detection of plant pathogens. Crop targets include wheat, barley, tomato, groundnut and ornamental species.

Abiotic and Biotic Stress

Key aims and expertise

Michael Holdsworth's research aims to uncover and understand molecular pathways that control plant response to environmental stresses, particularly in relation to environmentally-determined stability of regulator proteins. Steve Rossall is investigating control of Aspergillus infection in groundnut using natural antifungal plant extracts and antagonistic micoorganisms. Rumiana Ray is working on the epidemiology and control of root, stem-base and ear diseases traits in cereals, while work by Matt Dickinson focuses on detection of plant pathogens using arrays and in-field isothermal amplification techniques. Much of the research in this theme receives industrial sponsorship along with funding from RCUK.

Current projects

Current and future research aims to continue to understand how this pathway controls plant abiotic responses, to understand how perception of multiple abiotic stresses is coordinated, and to provide resources for plant breeders and growers (Mike Holdsworth).

Work on the epidemiology and control of crop diseases includes strategies against Fusarium head blight effective in malting barley (SAFEMalt), identification of physiological traits in wheat conferring passive resistance to Fusarium head blight and elucidating crop losses and control of Rhizoctonia solani and R. cerealis in wheat (Rumiana Ray).

Work on detection of plant pathogens includes development and in-field testing of improved phytoplasma molecular diagnostic techniques in Ghana, application of next generation diagnostics for improved detection and understanding of root diseases in tomato and characterising populations of yellow rust using molecular markers (Matthew Dickinson).

Significant results

  • The mechanism that plants use to perceive and respond to too much water during flooding has been elucidated (Gibbs et al (2011) Nature 479: 415-418).
  • Identification of the predominant UK pathogens associated with losses due to Fusarium head blight disease in barley and Rhizoctonia disease in wheat.
  • Validated, accurate lab-based and in-field pathogen detection systems have been produced for use by plant health inspectorates/quarantine services.

Abiotic and Biotic Stress

The University of Nottingham
301B South Laboratory, Sutton Bonington Campus
Loughborough, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 6046