Wednesday 24 January 2018, 1.00PM
Speaker(s): Professor Sue Hartley
Globally around a quarter of crop yield is lost to pests and diseases, even with the use of modern methods of crop protection, whilst the production of sufficient food is also threatened by increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather. This talk explores the inter-disciplinary approaches which may provide new sustainable methods to improve crop resistance to pests and diseases, and to increase the resilience of food production to climate change. It will focus on the benefits of plant silicon, which accumulates to high levels in most cereals and provides protection against herbivores and pathogens, as well as mitigating the impacts of climatic stresses such as drought and salinity. The talk presents recent findings on how silicon levels in plants are affected by climate, levels of herbivory, plant traits such as stomatal density, and plant gene expression. Crop domestication has had a relatively small impact, so significantly silicon defences remain in our modern crop varieties whereas other defences have often been lost. These advances in our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the uptake and deposition of silicon-based defences could drive new ways of maintaining crop yields in the face of current threats and contribute to both improved food security and climate change mitigation.