Global climate change is resulting in changing weather patterns. For the UK, it is predicted that we will get warmer wetter winters and hotter drier summers. At the same time, there will be an increase in the frequency of extreme weather, including periods of droughts and heat waves, but also more storms and floods. This, combined with growing demand for food across the world, means that agriculture is facing unprecedented challenges. The crops used by farmers will have to change. We will need plants that produce greater yields using fewer chemicals whilst being able to survive extreme weather conditions.
Our research is focussed on identifying strategies that can be used to increase the hardiness of crops, while maintaining or increasing yield. In particular we are examining the process of photosynthesis, by which sunlight is used to make the sugars that drive growth. We are investigating how crop plants respond to extreme conditions but also looking at wild plants, with natural stress tolerance, to see what lessons can be learnt from them and to identify traits that might be bred into our crops.
I am currently a senior lecturer, based in the Ecology and Evolution research group in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. I completed a degree in Biochemistry at the University of Sheffield. I stayed in Sheffield for my PhD, under the supervision of Peter Horton and Phil Grime, in which I examined the responses of native British plants to different growth lights. Afterwards, I worked as a NATO research fellow at CE-Saclay, near Paris, and then in the Botanical Institute of the University of Münster, Germany, before coming to Manchester as lecturer in Physiological Plant Ecology. In 2002-3 I spent a year as a visiting fellow at the Institute for Physico-Chemical Biology (IBPC) in Paris.