We use multiple model and crop species in our work. From top left, Arabidopsis thaliana, Arabis alpina, Brassica napus (oilseed rape), Pisum sativum (garden pea), Solanum lycopersicon (tomato), Fallopia japonica (Japanese knotweed), Triticum aestivum (wheat), Hordeum vulgarum (barley).

Strigolactone signalling and evolution

We have been heavily involved in defining the core mechanism of strigolactone signalling in flowering plants, but much remains to be understood about downstream signalling events. Furthermore, evolutionary analyses suggest that the strigolactone signalling pathway we have defined had only evolved relatively recently. We aim to dissect strigolactone signalling in a range of plant species at greater depth.

The end of flowering, fruiting and growth

While we know a huge amount regarding how plants initiate flowering, we know almost nothing about the mechanisms that bring about the end of flowering. This project extends our previous work on the hormonal regulation of shoot architecture to look at the events which occur after flowering in both annual and perennial plants. How do plants know when to stop flowering, when to stop producing fruit and when to stop growing? We believe that three interacting ‘post-floral processes’ regulate the end of flowering, fruiting and growth. These processes — floral arrest, carpic dominance and interchangeable dominance — are very poorly characterised, and we aim to define their roles in post-floral development, and the molecular mechanisms by which they act. We hypothesise that differently wired interactions between these processes may result in the varied life-history strategies found between flowering species, and aim to test this idea.

Limitations on biomass, branching and yield

This project builds on our long-standing interest in the regulation of shoot branching. Shoot branching, biomass and flowering are closely interlinked parameters that determine crop productivity and yield. Plants are inherently ‘cautious’ about resource use, and therefore limit their own growth, even when external factors (light, mineral nutrients, water) are not limiting. We want to identify the mechanisms that plants use to assess available resources, and the processing mechanisms that result in growth limitations. We aim to define the effects this has on plant growth, and particularly to assess whether self-limitation is a relevant factor in limiting crop yields under field conditions.