10 Jun 2016
SCI Agrisciences Group collaborated with a number of other partners to organise the annual UK Plant Science Federation conference. This year the overall topic was Plants in a changing world: molecule to ecosystem and the event was held at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, over two days in April. The John Innes Centre is the home of the famous compost, and is now a world-renowned centre of excellence for plant and microbe genetics and molecular biology.
Agrisciences Group’s session covered the subject of abiotic stress in crops, i.e. the effects of drought, excessive heat or cold, nutrient deficiency and other adverse environmental factors in limiting crop productivity. Abiotic stresses, together with the competition from weeds and the ravages of pests and diseases, prevent crops from reaching their potential yields.
A new sector in the crop protection industry has emerged over recent years. The industry majors and smaller specialist players are seeking and developing innovative new products for the market, variously known as ‘Crop Enhancement’ or ‘Plant Health’. There is a growing research effort and knowledge of the mechanisms by which plants react to and deal with stress. Plants stress products have various modes of action. These include modifying signalling via hormones such as abscisic acid (ABA), ethylene; effects via enzymes and membranes on key processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, and nitrogen assimilation; antioxidant effects; and overall growth promotion.
Agrisciences Group’s abiotic stress session included contributions by members of the Group. Richard Haslam, a member of the Group Committee, discussed his work at Rothamsted Research on the role of lipids in mitigating the effects of abiotic stress; and Jacob Bishop (University of Reading), presented his PhD research on the interactions between heat stress and insect pollinators. While Mafalda Nina, who leads Syngenta’s R&D in the area in Basel, Switzerland, and Steven Adams from UK specialist company Plant Impact, gave overviews of their company’s product pipelines. Finally, Anne Plessis (University of Plymouth) talked about an international collaboration looking at gene expression in rice in response to stress.
Chair, SCI Agrisciences Group