Plant production and protection

Theme leader: Professor Duncan Cameron

02-p3To provide more crop yield on less land with fewer inputs undoubtedly requires alteration to the fundamental physiological attributes of plants through genetic modification, either through advanced plant breeding or through direct gene transfer. In turn this will depend upon a deep and detailed understanding of these physiological processes. Sheffield strengths exist in research into a number of areas of plant physiology that have been identified as keys to agricultural improvement. These include: photosynthesis, leaf development, stomata, plant parasites, plant immunity and mycorrhiza-root interactions.

Basic research is found in the Robert Hill Institute for Plant Science Research, whilst a new centre designed to translate this work into commercial exploitation is found in the P3 Centre of Excellence in Translational Plant Science, P3 standing for Plant Production and Protection.

Applied agricultural research has tended to focus on answering specific, end-user needs, reactively to emergent issues without considering the mechanistic basis and underlying biology of the solution. In contrast, in the biomedical field, Translational Medicine brings clinicians and scientists together to efficiently form new treatments based on state-of the art knowledge. The application of these principles of translational research to agriculture are rarely made, consequently, ‘state-of-the-art’ knowledge in plant biology is not routinely accessible to practitioners despite a clear need. The overarching objective of the P3 project is to develop the UK’s first dedicated Translational Agri-Tech programme allowing us to exploit our intellectual capital through promoting links between current research themes and industry, and in so doing, applying basic knowledge to real world problems. P3 aims to encompass the breadth of expertise at Sheffield and will capitalise on the ‘unique selling point’ of its plant science research; specifically our unparalleled ability factor across biological scales (genome> transcriptome> proteome> metabolome> whole organisms> ecosystems> biomes> climate) and in so doing, understanding agricultural systems from the ‘gene to the ecosystem and beyond’.

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