Research Group

Plant Productivity Group

A hand holding a thermal imaging camera in front of some plants. The screen on the camera shows some shades of orange, yellow and green.

The demands of a growing world population for food and fuel are putting greater pressure on the need for higher yielding crop varieties that do not rely on a high input and demand of chemicals or water.

We respond to this challenge by taking a whole organism approach to identify key genes and processes that determine productivity in plants in constantly changing environmental conditions.

Uniquely we have the capacity to place our research in a real world socio-economic context, ensuring we are dealing with issues of global importance. We are a group of academics supported by a lively team of research technicians, postdoctoral researchers and research students, who create a stimulating collaborative and dynamic research environment.

Funding and Facilities

Our group’s research focuses on understanding and improving plants processes that determine plant productivity and plant responses to changing environmental conditions. We have an extensive network of national and international collaborations through projects funded by the BBSRC, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, EU, Leverhulme Trust, Perry Foundation and industry.

We have considerable expertise in the investigation of the growth and physiology of plants under both benign and stressful conditions in the laboratory and the field. This is underpinned by a considerable and continual investment in our specialised research facilities. Consequently, we have state-of-the art equipment for our research, including bespoke instrumentation and software designed and built in-house.

Our facilities include a plant phenotyping platform that houses a novel dynamic lighting system, combined thermal and chlorophyll fluorescence as well as whole plant gas exchange chambers.

Working with business

We are united around understanding the physiological and genetic basis of crop yield. Collectively we have a great deal of knowledge and experience in Plant Science, which extends to understanding how technology fits into the development of more environmentally sustainable production systems.

We offer many ways for you to access our expertise (.pdf), including consultancy, collaborative and commissioned research and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

These are some of the current and recently completed projects and programmes which are collaborative with and sponsored by industry:

  • Forestry research - Forestry Commission (Forest Research)
  • Crop improvement - Bayer Ltd
  • LED lighting technologies - TAS valley mushrooms
  • Technology development - ADC Ltd
  • Gene technology - Syngenta Ltd

Example case for SMEs

The EU funded project ABSTRESS is identifying genes that control responses to combined drought stress and Fusarium oxysporum infection in legumes. This involves working with our partner SMEs to fast track genes discovered in a model legume, Medicago truncatula, to field testing of mutated gene orthologs in non-GM peas and be candidates to enter EU-wide breeding programmes. Our partner SMEs are GenXPro (Germany), PGRO (UK), Arterra Bioscience (Italy), AgroVegetal (Spain), AgriTec (Czech Republic) and BTG (Italy).

Research degrees in Life Sciences

We have a vibrant postgraduate community, and are always keen to recruit new postgraduate research students (both PhD and Master of Science by Dissertation). Throughout the year we may have funded opportunities, such as PhD projects funded by NERC ARIES Doctoral Training Partnership.

Please feel free to contact individual group members if you are interested in postgraduate research. Many of our academics maintain lists of project titles that they are happy to supervise on, and may be able to help you narrow down your choice in what to research.

A sample being held up to the light in a lab
Our research

Our research covers the whole spectrum of biology – from the cell right through to communities and ecosystems. Two-thirds of our research was rated as 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent' (REF 2014)

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Contact us
Liz Lee Reynolds Research Manager