NEPH: Nottingham Environmental Physiology Hub

Research teams  

 View of field from tractora lab bench filled with beets

Amanda Rasmussen

Agriculture and Environmental Science, BiosciencesMandy setting up microdialysis in a vegetable garden

Adventitious roots are roots that form from any non-root tissue. Adventitious roots form in many different plants under normal conditions and in response to different stresses and so are important ecologically. They are also central to propagation of many commercially important plants in forestry and horticulture. Many of our cereal crops depend on root systems made up of crown and brace roots - which are types of adventitious root. The AR_Lab studies how adventitious root types develop and respond to different environmental conditions focusing on physiology and aims to harness advantages for more efficient and resilient crop production and improved cutting propagation.   



Erik Murchie

Plant and Crop Science, Biosciences

My research group explores photosynthesis in crop plants at the leaf and canopy scales and in the field. A major goal is to try to understand the limitations to photosynthesis that exist in the field that are caused by intrinsic and environmental factors. We use genetic variation from transgenics, wide crossing in wheat and rice populations.  A strong interest is 3D canopy architecture and the constraints it places on dynamic photosynthesis in the canopy. We are trying to answer the question of whether architecture and associated traits is inked to photosynthesis dynamics. We also use LED lighting in basic and applied research to manipulate photosynthetic and growth responses. A further goal is the integration of root and shoot traits.



Barry Lomax

Agriculture and Environmental Science, Biosciences

My research is focuses on how we can use experimental data derived from ecophysiology to infer plant evolutionary success and to develop mechanistic proxies to infer climate change through geological time. My research is split into two broad areas: plant CO2 interactions and plant chemical responses to UV-B radiation.  CO2 work has been based around growing plants in a palaeoCO2 concentrations ranging from current ambient ~400ppm to simulating palaeo greenhouses with CO2 at ~3000ppm. This lead to work looking at CO2 in the root zone, exposing plants to 50% CO2 (500 000ppm).  My work on UV-B is based around using changes in spore and pollen wall chemistry as a tool to track changes in UV-B and total solar irradiance through time. I have worked on plants from the Late Devonian (~380 million years old) through to the present with samples coming from the tropics to the poles.



Sean Mayes

Plant and Crop Science, Biosciences

Sean Mayes surrounded by bambara groundnut

Our main interest focuses on the genetic dissection of beneficial traits in crop species. The group has work in wheat, oil palm and underutilised crops, such as Bambara groundnut, and for all three crops we have an interest in how the crop adapts and responds to drought-stress. By using genetics and structured populations to dissect the responses to stress, we aim to breed for more drought-tolerant crops. Drought is a complex and variable stress and can range from an intermittent period of stress, through to crops attempting to survive on stored water alone. As such, different ideotypes may be required for different situations. An understanding of the fundamental physiological, developmental and biochemical response mechanisms involved can allow the breeding of such ideotypes and permit their deployment in the relevant countries, both for large industry and for smallholder farmers.



Neil Graham

Plant and Crop Science, Biosciences

My current research interests are in the area of plant mineral nutrition, investigating how plants obtain nutrients from the soil, distribute them to different organs and how they are transferred to animals that eat them. I am interested in how these mechanisms can be manipulated to increase nutrient use efficiency and the nutritional quality of crops. This is achieved using a range of genomic, genetic and molecular techniques to study these mechanisms at the gene, organ, whole plant and field scales. This includes investigating the role of specific genes e.g. transporters and the role of root architecture traits in the uptake of nutrients from the soil environment.



Scott Young

Agriculture and Environmental Science, Biosciences

My research is concerned with the bioavailability, speciation and mobility of trace metals and radioisotopes in the environment. I’m specifically interested in the geochemical and physiological mechanisms that control trace element dynamics and govern deficiency and toxicity, primarily in plants. This interest has led to the development of enriched stable isotope approaches to determining the fractionation and speciation of trace elements using various techniques, such as size exclusion chromatography and ‘single particle analysis’, coupled to inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).  Current projects are concerned with topics such as: selenium and iodine deficiency in Malawi, selenium cycling in soils, iodine dynamics in Gilgit-Baltistan, trace element deficiency in East Africa and Kurdistan, modelling solubility of lead, cadmium, zinc, nickel and copper (various), chromium speciation in soils and plants, thorium and uranium dynamics in soils, phosphate dynamics in topsoil and subsoil.



Mike Holdsworth

Plant and Crop Science, Biosciences

Current areas of interest include:

  • Characterisation of the plant N-end rule pathway of  ubiquitin-mediated targeted proteolysis.
  • Understanding the role of targeted proteolysis in sensing plant-environment interactions.
  • Gasotransmitters and gas sensing. 
  • Providing molecular resources and conceptual frameworks that plant breeders and growers can use.


Franzisca Schrodt

Geography, Social Sciences

My work focuses on the application of remote sensing, machine learning and non-linear statistical tools to study biogeochemical patterns. I am especially interested in plant functional trait - environment correlations and associated implications for ecosystem structure and functioning.

I am currently working on global and European scales but, following my PhD research, remain interested in processes in tropical ecosystems, especially the transition between tropical forests and savannas.

Ultimately, I aim to further develop our understanding of the dynamic interactions between the biogeographical and biogeochemical characteristics of our environment, as well as potential consequences of human induced environmental change and impacts on human well-being.



Rumiana Ray

Plant and Crop Science, Biosciences

Rumiana Ray in a crop fieldMy work is focussed on understanding host-pathogen/pest interactions and breeding for improved disease or pest resistance. I am interested in disease epidemiology and integrative strategies for disease/pest management in cereals, brassica and tropical crops. My group is also working with complexes of pathogens and pests associated with mycotoxin accumulation in cereals and we are developing diagnostics for their detection and cultural, biological and chemical methods for their control. 

My group is working on developing field-based sensors for the detection of biotic and abiotic stresses in order to identify the need for treatment, genotypic or chemical responses. We aim to understand genotype x environment interactions in relation to pest or disease responses in field but also study the molecular or physiological mechanisms of disease or pest resistance/tolerance. Our ultimate aim is to discover new genes for resistance and introduce them in new varieties with minimum trade-off with yield or quality.  



Debbie Sparkes

Plant and Crop Science, Biosciences

lab bench covered in beetsMy research focusses on crop physiology and the application of this to improved crop management. For example, BBSRC-funded research on lodging (when crops fall over, reducing yield and quality) has enhanced understanding of the plant characteristics that lead to lodging in wheat, and has enabled growers to reduce the risk of lodging by changing their crop management practices, thereby preventing yield loss and protecting crop quality. I work closely with the agricultural industry to ensure that my research is relevant to current industry demand and that results are quickly communicated to growers and agronomists. Current work includes a five-year programme, funded by the British Beet Research Organisation, entitled ‘Understanding soil-plant interactions to improve sugar beet productivity’, allied to this are four PhD students, working in related areas.



Nottingham Environmental Physiology Hub

The University of Nottingham
Division of Agriculture and Environmental Science
School of Biosciences
Sutton Bonington Campus
Loughborough, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 95 16293