School of Biosciences Plant and Crop Sciences Division NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2014 News and Events From the Editor. A new roots lab, quinoa and cider feature in this months newsletter. As ever unsolicited contributions are always welcome. Kevin BBQ A WELCOME GATHERING….. There will be a gathering in the foyer on Wednesday October 8th at 1pm to welcome a new cohort of students to the Division. All Plant Science undergraduate student, including five new first years will be invited, along with new Masters students on the PGM and CI masters courses, and all new PhD students starting in the Division. Everyone else is also welcome. There will be refreshments. A WARM WELCOME TO NEW MEMBERS OF THE PLANT AND CROP SCIENCES DIVISION The Kings group have two new post-docs: Dr Andras Cseh is from Martonvasar in Hungary and has a two year Marie Curie Fellowship. Dr Glacy Da Silva. is here for one year as part of a BBSRC Travel Award from Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Brazil. Jerry Roberts flips burgers at the Plant and Crop Sciences Divsional BBQ Gibbs, DJ; Voss, U; Harding, SA; Fannon, J; Moody, LA; Yamada, E; Swarup, K; Nibau, C; Bassel, GW; Choudhary, A; Lavenus, J; Bradshaw, SJ; Stekel, DJ; Bennett, MJ; Coates, JC (2014) AtMYB93 is a novel negative regulator of lateral root development in Arabidopsis. New Phytologist 203:11941207. Li, G; Liang, WQ; Zhang, XQ; Ren, HY; Hu, JP; Bennett, MJ; Zhang, DB (2014) Rice actin-binding protein RMD is a key link in the auxin-actin regulatory loop that controls cell growth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States Of America 111:10377-10382 Dyson, RJ; Vizcay-Barrena, G; Band, LR; Fernandes, AN; French, AP; Fozard, JA; Hodgman, TC; Kenobi, K; Pridmore, TP ; Stout, M; Wells, DM; Wilson, MH; Bennett, MJ; Jensen, OE (2014) Mechanical modelling quantifies the functional importance of outer tissue layers during root elongation and bending. New Phytologist 202, 1212–1222. Harrison, NA; Davis, RE ; Oropeza, C; Helmick, EE; Narvaez, M; Eden-Green, S; Dollet, M; Dickinson, M (2014) 'Candidatus Phytoplasnna palmicola', associated with a lethal yellowing-type disease of coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) in Mozambique. International Journal of Systematic And Evolutionary Microbiology 64:1890-1899. SOME RECENT PUBLICATIONS FROM PLANT AND CROP SCIENCES STAFF (in no particular order) Gomez, JF; Wilson, ZA (2014) A barley PHD finger transcription factor that confers male sterility by affecting tapetal development. Plant Biotechnology Journal 12:765-777. Carvalho, P; Azam-Ali, S; Foulkes, MJ (2014) Quantifying relationships between rooting traits and water uptake under drought in Mediterranean barley and durum wheat. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 56: 455469. Feldman, AB; Murchie, EH; Leung, H; Baraoidan, M Coe, R; Yu, SM; Lo, SF; Quick, WP (2014) Increasing leaf vein density by mutagenesis: Laying the foundations for C-4 Rice. PLOS ONE 9: e94947. Mangalassery, S; Sjogersten, S; Sparkes, DL; Sturrock, CJ; Craigon, J; Mooney, SJ (2014) To what extent can zero tillage lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from temperate soils? Scientific Reports 4: 4586. Mellor, N; Bishopp, A (2014 The innermost secrets of root development Science 345: 622-623. Joy, EJM ; Ander, EL; Young, SD; Black, CR; Watts, MJ; Chilimba, ADC; Chilima, B; Siyame, EWP; Kalimbira, AA; Hurst, R; Fairweather-Tait, SJ; Stein, AJ; Gibson, RS; White, PJ; Broadley, MR (2014) Dietary mineral supplies in Africa Physiologia Plantarum 151:208-229 Special Issue: SI. Scanning variation in root growth As recently published by Adu, MO; Chatot, A; Wiesel, L; Bennett, MJ; Broadley, MR; White, PJ; Dupuy, LX (2014) A scanner system for high-resolution quantification of variation in root growth dynamics of Brassica rapa genotypes Journal of Experimental Botany 65:2039-2048. PETER ALDERSON RETIRES…. Peter Alderson, long serving academic at Sutton Bonington recently retired and was presented with a leaving gift by Professor Jerry Roberts. Peter had been with the University over 38 years and recently was the major force behind establishing biotechnology related degrees at Nottingham’s Malaysian campus. We send him all good wishes for his retirement. Jerry Roberts, Peter Alderson and Peter’s wife, Ruth. Tim Robbins, Matt Dickinson, Peter Alderson and Grantley Lycett GROWING QUINOA IN BRITAIN…… A University of Nottingham PhD student and arable farmer is to showcase his unique new crop on the BBC’s popular Sunday evening programme ’Countryfile’ this weekend. Stephen Jones from Shropshire is doing a PhD in crop science at the University’s School of Biosciences at Sutton Bonington. Alongside his studies at the University, Stephen established The British Quinoa Company which now produces British grown quinoa on his family’s farm and currently holds the exclusive UK rights to grow the only quinoa varieties bred for the European climate. It has taken Stephen many years of on-farm research to get his production practices right and is now in his second year of full scale commercial production. Quinoa is a nutty-tasting, high protein, gluten free grain which originates from South America and until now has been difficult to grow commercially in Northern European climates. Stephen’s smart business plan to exclusively grow and sell British quinoa was a winner in the University’s Student Venture Challenge last year. Now, BBC TV’s Countryfile has visited Stephen on his farm near Ellesmere to find out how he has been experimenting with quinoa production and developed a good practice for growing the crop commercially in the British climate. Stephen is now the exclusive provider of the grain to famous chains like Pret-A-Manger and his family business is launching its own range of products this autumn after harvest. Stephen said: “Countryfile has been a fantastic way for us to raise the profile of this new British grain and we hope to have a large increase in our production area over the next few years to satisfy a rapidly growing market” Stephen’s PhD work at Nottingham has helped his business by unravelling the mysteries of how differences in plant physiology can help a crop adapt to a new environment. Specifically in his research he is aiming to identify physiological traits in wheat that are able to confer passive resistance to a wheat disease, Fusarium Head Blight (FHB). Countryfile’s report on Stephen and his unique arable adventure was featured on 24th August 2014. For more information see http://www.britishquinoa.co.uk/ A NEW ROOT LAB AT SUTTON BONINGTON A multidisciplinary team of scientists at The University of Nottingham are using some of the most advanced X-ray micro Computed Tomography (CT) scanners to learn how to design plant roots so they can interact better with soil and capture water and nutrients more efficiently. This non-invasive technology will help Nottingham unearth some of the answers to one of the biggest challenges facing the world today — global food security. Malcolm Bennett, Professor of Plant Sciences, said: “For the first time in 10,000 years of plant breeding, we can see a plant’s root architecture directly in the soil, as it is in the field, and use this information to select the most efficient varieties for farmers to grow.” The new Hounsfield Facility, on the University’s Sutton Bonington Campus, brings together specialists from the Schools of Biosciences, Computer Science, Mathematics and Engineering to delve into the ‘Rhizosphere’ — the thin layer of soil directly influenced by the proteins and sugars released by roots and inhabited by microorganisms that live off discarded plant cells. The Nottingham scientists are using the CT equipment and novel image analysis techniques to understand how roots of different crop varieties take up water and nitrogen. The aim is to find plants that use water and nutrients most efficiently to produce higher yields in more challenging conditions — such as drought and flooding. Visualising plant root behaviour from seed to flowering The Hounsfield Facility is equipped with three CT scanners — capable of imaging objects as fine as a soil particle or a root hair to a fully mature root system. It has a fully automated greenhouse which is manned by the laser guided robot, needed to feed the 1m long, 80kg samples to the largest scanner. The research centre has been named after Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, the electrical engineer from Newark in Nottinghamshire, who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his part in developing the diagnostic technique of X-ray Computed Tomography (CT). With these scanners and specialised image analysis methods Nottingham researchers can image the structure of plant roots in a non-destructive way growing through soil throughout the life of the plant — from seed to flowering. Imaging the hidden half of plants Sacha Mooney, Professor of Soil Physics said: “We have finally overcome a major obstacle to our research. The opacity of soil prevented us from being able to see how roots actually grow in their natural environment. Using X-rays we can now ‘see-through’ the soil and visualise roots in 3D, offering new insights into the previously ‘hidden half’ of a plant. These new imaging technologies combined with biological resources have helped to create a worldleading facility with the tools that will radically improve our efforts to increase crop performance.” There’s a small high resolution scanner for visualising fine details such as single roots, root hairs and the soil around them: a medium scale micro CT scanner to image an entire root system: and a large custom designed CT system to look at plants such as wheat throughout its whole growth cycle from seed to flowering — bringing the field closer to the lab than ever before. X-ray CT produces a 3D image of the scanned sample. The RooTrak image analysis software, developed by experts in the University’s School of Computer Science, identifies root material within those images and builds a 3D model of the root system that can be viewed from any angle. Tony Pridmore, Professor of Computer Science, said: “The problem with CT images is that roots and soil can appear very similar, and identical in some cases. RooTrak treats the 3D image as a set of 2D slices — a video — and tracks roots as they weave and branch through the soil. This allows it to adapt to the roots’ surroundings and extract root segments that can be stitched together to create a 3D model.” The tracking method has recently been extended to allow RooTrak to separate one root system from another when multiple plants are grown in the same pot. This leads to 3D models showing the interactions between neighbouring, and even touching, root systems as they exist in an agricultural field competing for water and nutrients. Research and commercial collaborations The new centre has been funded by the European Research Council, BBSRC, the Wolfson Foundation and The University of Nottingham. The scanners are also well suited to analysing a whole range of bio and non-biomaterials such as carbon fibres, food products, and electrical components. The team works with a wide range of local and national groups including Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, the Faculty of Engineering, the British Geological Survey, several multinational food companies and even Michelin starred chefs! Official opening The new Hounsfield Facility will be officially opened on The University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington Campus by Professor Jackie Hunter, CE of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Sir Godfrey Hounsfield’s niece will also attend representing the Hounsfield family. THE SUTTON BONINGTON CIDER CUP Once more this hotly contested competiton was held at the home of Rupert and Zsuzsa Fray with a stunning array of home made ciders up for consideration. 22 different ciders were tasted along with two internal controls of commercial cider (Old Rosie). Several different brews were entered by Rupert himself, Mike Davey and Kevin Pyke, and Grantley Lycett, along with Rachael Hackett and others. After due consideration and a highly complex voting procedure after blind tasting, the winner was proudly announced as a brew by young Fray himself, rather acidly entitled “Pykesbane”. A jolly good cider it was too. So once more the Sutton Bonnington cider cup is retained by this demon brewer and efforts by his competitors to wrestle the trophy off of him and move it north of the Soar must be increased next year! Kevin Pyke presented Rupert Fray with the Sutton Bonington Cider cup was winner for 2014 TOBIAS BASKIN – A NEW VISITOR I hail from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Dept of Biology, where I study plant growth. I have been particularly interested in anistropic expansion, and I have used roots as experimental material. Through my preoccupation with the hidden half, I got to know Malcolm Bennett and the CPIB crew. In fact, my lab became an International Collaborator of the centre's. I was impressed by the genuine interdisciplinary approach that goes on and so when my sabbatical leave came around I sought to spend it here. Fortunately, the 7th Framework of the EU looked kindly on this sojourn and awarded me a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship for the year. I arrived in early August and will be spending a twelvemonth. I have two projects. One arises directly out of my interest in growth anisotropy and that is to develop a good system for studying growth in stems. There are a number of reasons to leave roots for this this project, not least of which is to connect with a large body of prior work. To illustrate what is at issue, consider auxin, the original plant hormone and one discovered based on its ability to promote growth. But in assays, growth is taken as elongation, as in making a stem get longer. Does auxin also make the stem get wider? Almost no one has ever asked. A facile system for measuring stem growth will provide an answer, and likewise will help provide answers to other outstanding questions about how stems grow. The second project is on roots. We know that roots have a meristem where cells divide and expand slowly and an elongation zone where they don't divide and expand rapidly. How do these zones retain their distinct character even as cells move rapidly from meristem to elongation zone? This project will involve setting up high resolution measurements of cells as they grow and experiments where different cellular attributes are perturbed and assaying the consequences for root zonation. I'll be collaborating closely with the image analysis group to develop the suitable analytical software. This so far has not left me too busy for tea and talk. My office is right in front of the CPIB corrall, I believe A15. Come by and say hello. Finally, I have started a science blog "LabFab" https://www.cpib.ac.uk/lab-fab/. The idea here is to open a door into the course of experiments, sort of in real time. Well, it cannot be exactly real time, but a far cry from the highly scripted narrative of a scientific paper. Although I am construing this as part of 'outreach' efforts for the masses, I suspect that scientists will be interested too. Have a look! Comments are welcome. Tobias This Newsletter was edited entirely by Kevin Pyke, so any mistakes are Kevin’s fault. It is available online on the Plant and Crop Sciences web page at www.nottingham.ac.uk/biosciences/subject-areas/plantcrop/index.aspx Contributions for the next issue by October 21st 2014 to be published October 22nd 2014.
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