13TSB_ACT Novel biomaterial engineering technologies, molecular and hormone analyses to improve lettuce seed priming and production in stressful envir

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Name: Biological Sciences

Abstract

Our pre-industrial feasibility study is a multi-disciplinary approach with novel biomaterial engineering technologies and advanced molecular and hormone analytic techniques to provide innovative and sustainable solutions for the diagnostics, management, and further improvement of the lettuce seed priming process. The collaboration between Germains Seed Technology (Norfolk) and the seed science lab at Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL, Leubner/Steinbrecher) have the knowledge and expertise to employ a custom-built leading-edge biomechanical device, novel imaging and beyond-state-of-the art seed hormone analytics to explore their potential as diagnostic tools to monitor and further improve the lettuce priming process. Germains offers lettuce seed priming to the UK and European market as it provides fast and uniform germination, and sturdy and uniform lettuce seedlings to ensure improved primary leafy salad crop production even in stressful environments.

Seed priming is used by seed technology companies to enhance arable and horticultural food production and is especially important for vegetable seeds like lettuce. It is a powerful seed processing methodology to enhance the quality of the seed sown for primary crop production. Primed seed provides fast and uniform germination, and vigorous seedling etablishment even in stressful environments. Due to thermo- and photo-inhibition lettuce and other leafy salad seeds are especially prone to high temperatures and darkness which may occur in the seedling production environment. Specialist plant raisers have the all-important job of growing salad seeds into sturdy seedlings and this is achieved in large temperature-controlled greenhouses (energy costs) in the UK. It is the uniformity and sturdiness of these seedlings handed over to UK salad crop growers which are the cornerstone of modern leafy salad primary crop production. Seed priming alleviates thermo- and photo-inhibition and ensures rapid and uniform establishment of sturdy lettuce seedlings and thereby can directly affect the uniformity and yield of UK leafy salad primary production. Germains Seed Technology (Kings Lynn, Norfolk, www.germains.com) primes lettuce seeds for customers and offers specific priming processes as products to the UK and European market. It competes with other seed technology companies for the best priming product and does not have the knowledge and technologies to further improve and monitor its lettuce priming protocol. To do this would require fundamental insight into the mechanisms underlying the priming process and innovative novel technologies to further improve it beyond what has already been achieved by Germains and its competitors. Germains therefore wants to conduct a pre-industrial research feasibility study with the renowned UK seed science lab of Prof G Leubner and Dr T Steinbrecher (Royal Holloway University of London, RHUL, www.seedbiology.eu) to explore and evaluate the potential of using their novel technologies of biomaterial enineering and seed hormone analytics as diagnostic tools for monitoring and further improving the lettuce seed priming process. In a multi-disciplinary collaboration between RHUL and Germains, we wish to generate research evidence and evaluate if these technologies are suited as diagnostic tools to further improve lettuce seed priming.

Technical Summary

Seed priming is conducted by seed technology companies improve the quality of vegetable seeds including lettuce. Primed lettuce seeds provide alleviated dormancy, fast and uniform germination, followed by sturdy and uniform seedlings to ensure improved primary leafy salad crop production even in stressful environments. In this multi-disciplinary collaboration project between Germains Seed Technology (Norfolk, www.germains.com) and the seed science lab at Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL, Prof G Leubner and Dr T Steinbrecher, www.seedbiology.eu) we will use novel biomaterial engineering technologies, growth imaging and molecular/hormone analytics to provide innovative diagnostic tools which will enable to further improve the lettuce seed priming process. The feasibility and commercial potential of these novel agricultural technologies will be explored with the vision to further improve priming, plantlet raising and primary crop production of leafy salad.

Planned Impact

The impact is described on the TSB application form for this competition.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Parsnip seed quality is associated with the seed's structural and physiological properties related to its morphological dormancy and endosperm weakening. This is also key to further improve vegetable seed priming. Further to this, the hormones and associated gene expression are of prime importance.
Exploitation Route The hormones are most interesting together with the distinct type of dormancy as related to the seed priming technology. We agreed with Elsom Seeds that follow-up research is required and aim for Innovate UK or HAPI for applications.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment

 
Description The research award announcement attracted further funding: An iCASE PhD student scholarship together with Elsom Seeds. An iCASE PhD studentship with Tozer Seeds A BBSRC IPA grand (PlasSeed) with Elsoms Seeds and Bejo. The research award together with the KWS research has led to invitations as key speaker at two Ag-Bio Congresses in the seed treatment session (Amsterdam, Nov 2015 and Nice, Sept 2016). The project was successfully completed and we are discussing follow-up work of applied nature. This has established a research partnership. Waiting for a call where seed technology would be a focus (HAPI or similar). This is relevant to the REF2021 Impact Case Study by Steinbrecher & Leubner "Improving Crop Seed Quality through refinement technologies": The impact of Leubner and Steinbrecher´s research has derived from innovative environmental-friendly seed technologies that enhance and refine quality, storability and ageing resilience of crop seeds. High-quality seed is essential for enhanced seedling performance even upon environmental stress and consequently for yield and food supply chain resilience. The beneficiaries are national (e.g. Elsoms & Tozer) and international (e.g. KWS) seed production companies, as well as farmers, consumers, gardeners, and policy makers. The Pan-European Rocket Science initiative has highlighted the necessity to improve seed quality for extra-terrestrial cultivation as an approach to tackling climate emergency and has inspired the next generation.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Rocket Science Project Report of the Horticultural Society (RHS) - Rocket Science - Our Voyage of Discovery
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Rocket Science Project Report of the Horticultural Society (RHS) "Rocket Science - Our Voyage of Discovery" - The RHS report contains our research contribution (p. 23) and interview with me and our collaborator from Tozer Seeds. It reaches >600,000 pupils at UK Schools to excite them about STEM, plants and food security. Our contributions are also detailed in "How to grow a successful space salad - with help from Tim Peake!" - https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/2016-articles/how-to-grow-a-successful-space-salad-with-help-from-tim-peake.aspx Further to this I was a speaker on this topic on the 12th Triennial International Society for Seed Science (ISSS) conference in Monterey, California, July 2017
URL https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/getmedia/a3385b8e-0eaf-4953-8d90-bc163ff0f982/Final-Rocket-Scienc...
 
Description Industrial CASE Studentship BBSRC - SeedGasPlasma - Giles Grainge - Gas plasma treatment as a novel seed technology to release dormancy and improve germination uniformity of vegetable seeds.
Amount £109,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/M01651X/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2019
 
Description Mechanisms of celery morphological dormancy, longevity and quality (iCASE PhD studentship Matthew Walker) - http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/projects?ref=studentship-1813810
Amount £109,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/R505730/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2020
 
Description Morphological Dormancy and Germination of Apiaceae species - MSc Project Blythe Soper
Amount £6,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Holloway, University of London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 09/2019
 
Description Rocket Science
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Holloway, University of London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 10/2017
 
Description Understanding the Food Chain of Teff (Eragostis tef) and the Application of Seed Technology in Teff Farming in Ethiopia - Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Networking
Amount £21,767 (GBP)
Funding ID GCRFNGR4\1116 
Organisation Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2019 
End 09/2020
 
Title Biological samples of seeds for hormone, transcriptome and RT-qPCR 
Description Biological samples of seeds for hormone, transcriptome and RT-qPCR 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Improved seed hormone and transcriptome analyses as described in various of our publications 
 
Title Vegetable seed aging transcriptomes 
Description Ageing of vegetables seeds during storage is compared on the transcriptome level. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Improves concepts for vegetable seed storage to prevent or reduce seed aging. 
 
Description Accelerated delivery of intracellular N-fixing bacteria to seed via imbibitional technology 
Organisation Azotic Technologies
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Crop seed biology and technology expertise and preliminary research which lead to our submitted AgriTech Catalyst application
Collaborator Contribution N-fixing bacteria expertise and preliminary research which lead to our submitted AgriTech Catalyst application
Impact Submitted AgriTech Catalyst application was rejected. Direct funding for 10 months was obtained from Azotic Technologies for work on N-fixing bacteria and seeds.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Allium Seed Quality Research with Tozer Seeds Cobham, Surrey, UK 
Organisation Tozer Seeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Innovation Voucher Allium research on seed ageing and quality of salad onions and leek.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of defined seed batches.
Impact Preliminary results on Allium seed quality were used for an AgriTech Catalyst application. This is now a funded project in collaboration with Tozer Seeds: ISCF WAVE1 AGRI TECH (Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund) BB/R021147/1 & TSB132858, 01.2018-03.2919
Start Year 2015
 
Description Novel biomaterial engineering technologies, 
Organisation Elsoms Seeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Research collaboration
Collaborator Contribution Research collaboration
Impact Ongoing
Start Year 2014
 
Description Rocket Science Project Report of the Horticultural Society (RHS) "Rocket Science - Our Voyage of Discovery" 
Organisation Royal Horticultural Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Rocket Science Project Report of the Horticultural Society (RHS) "Rocket Science - Our Voyage of Discovery" - The RHS report contains our research contribution (p. 23) and interview with me and our collaborator from Tozer Seeds. It reaches >600,000 pupils at UK Schools to excite them about STEM, plants and food security. Our contributions are also detailed in "How to grow a successful space salad - with help from Tim Peake!" - https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/2016-articles/how-to-grow-a-successful-space-salad-with-help-from-tim-peake.aspx
Collaborator Contribution Link to Report PDF: https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/getmedia/a3385b8e-0eaf-4953-8d90-bc163ff0f982/Final-Rocket-Science-Report-Low-Res
Impact https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/getmedia/a3385b8e-0eaf-4953-8d90-bc163ff0f982/Final-Rocket-Science-Report-Low-Res
Start Year 2017
 
Description Seed hormone profiling 
Organisation Palacky University
Country Czech Republic 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Preparation of seed samples for hormone profiling.
Collaborator Contribution Hormone profiling analytics conducted and results received. Placements for PhD students and postdocs.
Impact Publications and ongoing future work for publications.
Start Year 2007
 
Description Seed-Microbe interactions 
Organisation University of Osnabrück
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative research into the mechanisms of pericarp-conferred seed dormancy release by microbes in Lepidium. Mainly the biomechanics, microscopy and seed-microbe work.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative research into the mechanisms of pericarp-conferred seed dormancy release by microbes in Lepidium. Mainly the biomechanics, microscopy and seed-microbe work.
Impact A novel mechanism of pericarp-conferred seed dormancy release by microbes. Publication in Nature Communications (2017) by Sperber/Steinbrecher (shared first authors) and Leubner-Metzger/Mummenhoff (shared corresponding authors)
Start Year 2015
 
Description Fascination of Plants Day 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Seed germination setup with different crop seeds to inspire the children about plant science and gardening. Exhibition of seed diversity in structures, sizes, shapes and colours and a seed-plant quiz for the same purpose.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Rocket Science Project Report - Rocket Science - Our Voyage of Discovery 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Rocket Science Project Report "Rocket Science - Our Voyage of Discovery" Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), contributions and interview, as also detailed in "How to grow a successful space salad - with help from Tim Peake!" - https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/2016-articles/how-to-grow-a-successful-space-salad-with-help-from-tim-peake.aspx
https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/getmedia/a3385b8e-0eaf-4953-8d90-bc163ff0f982/Final-Rocket-Science-Report-Low-Res
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/2016-articles/how-to-grow-a-successful-sp...
 
Description Rocket Science Project Report Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), contributions and interview, as also detailed in "How to grow a successful space salad - with help from Tim Peake!" - https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/2016-articles/how-to-grow-a-successful-space-salad-with-help-from-tim-peake.aspx 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact See the RHS Campaign for School Gardening at with the Rocket Science Experiment Overview at
https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/Competitions/Rocket-Science-Experiment-Overview
Our involvement was to conduct rocket science research in collaboration with RHS (ongoing) and to contribute to the RHS rocket science report which was launched by Tim Peake in a PR event in Portsmouth 2016. Also, G Leubner (RHUL) and F Gawthrop (Tozer Seeds) were two of the 4 experts who answered seeds/food in space questions in the report (reaching 600,000 pupils). The RHS undertakes scientific research to underpin horticultural advice provided on the charity's website (1.3 million unique users per month) and to its 450,000 members. It curates four publicly accessible gardens which attract 1.8 million visitors each year. Organises horticultural shows throughout the UK to showcase horticultural excellence.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/Competitions/Rocket-Science-Experiment-Overview
 
Description Science Open Day at Royal Holloway University of London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Seed germination setup with different crop seeds to inspire the children about plant science and gardening. Exhibition of seed diversity in structures, sizes, shapes and colours and a seed-plant quiz for the same purpose.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017,2018,2019
URL http://www.rhul.ac.uk
 
Description The Seed Biology Place - www.seedbiology.eu 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our research, teaching and outreach website "The Seed Biology Place" - www.seedbiology.eu is internationally acknowledged and one of the most visited seed biology websites. It provides up-to-date information about seed dormancy and germination and the research of our group, as well as informs on seed anatomy, technology (seed industry), seed evolution and current topics in molecular seed biology and biotechnology. It is recommended by NetWatch of the Science Magazine (Science 313: 595, 2006) and by WebAlert (Current Opinion in Plant Biology 5: 371, 2002) as an information resource for research and teaching. The website has >900 visits / month and is usually among the top-10 hits in seed-related Goggle searches.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018
URL http://www.seedbiology.eu