December 11, 2018

Hattie Roberts

Hattie Roberts

Do biogenic VOCs protect plant productivity under multiple environmental stress?

Lancaster University and Bangor CEH

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As a Plant Biology graduate from Aberystwyth University, I am an enthusiastic ‘phyter’. My previous research has included investigating the distribution of a rare and vulnerable fungus growing on blackthorn leaves in The Burren, Ireland. A later BSc project explored the surprising evidence of carnivory in seeds of shepherd’s purse, a cruciferous arable weed. More recent projects have included exploring the ‘decisions’ that Brassica roots make when exposed to heterogeneous substrates that contain compounds that may reduce fitness, such as heavy metals. Thus, my Brassica odyssey continues.

My current project focuses on oilseed rape, the most economically and agriculturally important oilseed crop in Europe. The project involves exposing oilseed rape plants to three environmental stresses- temperature elevation, drought exposure, and ozone elevation (individually and in combination), which cause significant yield losses worldwide. In response to such stresses, plants produce biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) to protect metabolic pathways and organs from oxidative damage. These BVOCs may react with primary air pollutants to produce secondary air pollutants, such as ozone, escalating yield losses further. Experimental set-up includes using advanced solardome facilities at Bangor CEH. The measurement of BVOC production, as well as morphological traits, and changes in oil content and nutrition will also take place. The data collected will inform the development of a computer model at Lancaster Environment Centre, which will simulate crop production and BVOC emissions under future climate and air quality scenarios.