IWYP Call 2: Manipulating stomatal blue light response in wheat to improve productivity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Life Sciences

Abstract

World demand for food is growing and it has been estimated that a 50% increase in yield will be needed to meet the increasing demand due to the growing world population. This situation is further exacerbated by the changing climate, with predictions of reduced water availability in some regions and flooding in others. The anticipated increase in global temperature will reduce plant productivity as well as increase plant demands for water. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use the energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere into carbohydrates and other chemical compounds, which are used for growth. Photosynthesis takes place in all green parts of plants and in order for leaf photosynthesis to take place CO2 must enter the leaf through adjustable pores, called stomata, and at the same time water is lost through these pores which also aids in cooling the leaf down. It is important to maintain an optimal leaf temperature for photosynthesis, as high temperatures greatly reduce photosynthesis and crop yield. However if too much water is lost the plant will wilt and eventually die. Stomata are continually adjusting to changing environmental conditions to balance CO2 uptake with water loss. Stomata open in response to increasing light, however this response depends on the wavelength of light, and generally two different responses have been identified. The first is named the "red" light or mesophyll response. This response occurs during high light levels and is linked directly to the rates of photosynthesis; the second is the "specific blue" light response, which occurs at low light levels, such as those found early in the morning or late in the evening. Reducing stomatal sensitivity to blue light has the potential to optimise the crop's resource use, thereby maintaining photosynthetic rates while using water more efficiently. Decreasing water use will enable sustained photosynthetic rates through the grain filling period when water becomes limiting, thus enhancing overall photosynthetic potential of the crop throughout the cycle and increasing grain yield. We will use a non-transgenic tilling approach to identify single mutations in a gene known to be essential in stomatal responses to blue light (BLUS1) in each of the wheat homoeologs (A, B and D) and use these to generate single, double and triple mutants in a variety of different backgrounds. Mutants generated will be phenotyped for gas-exchange, photosynthetic biochemistry and grain yield production in both controlled environment conditions and 2 different field environments.

Technical Summary

Stomatal behaviour controls photosynthesis, water use and leaf temperature and these leaf pores are therefore an important, and unexploited, target for manipulation to improve crop productivity. Stomata open in response to increasing light, and two different responses have been described according to the wavelength of light. The first is named the "red" light or mesophyll response, occurs at high light levels and is linked directly to the rates of photosynthesis. The second is the "specific blue" light response and saturates at light levels too low to drive photosynthesis, which leads to stomata being more open than needed to achieve maximum CO2 uptake for photosynthesis; therefore the ratio of carbon gain to water loss, known as water use efficiency (WUE), is reduced. Reducing stomatal sensitivity to blue light has the potential to optimise the crop's resource use, thereby maintaining photosynthetic rates while using water more efficiently. Decreasing water use will enable sustained photosynthetic rates through the grain filling period when water becomes limiting, thus enhancing overall photosynthetic potential of the crop throughout the cycle and increasing grain yield. We will use a non-transgenic tilling approach to manipulate stomatal responses to blue light use these to generate a variety of different mutant backgrounds.
From this work we will deliver non-transgenic wheat plants with improved photosynthetic capacity throughout the crop cycle combined with better water use, and maximized productivity under a range of environmental conditions
These results will feed into existing breeding pipelines and the outcomes of this research will be of benefit to developing countries, contributing to sustainability and resource use efficiency through the production of cultivars with varying stomatal conductance, leaf temperatures and water use efficiencies, which will be advantageous for maximal growth in a range of different agricultural environments.

Planned Impact

Not applicable - see case for support

Publications

10 25 50

publication icon
Evans JR (2020) From green to gold: agricultural revolution for food security. in Journal of experimental botany

publication icon
Lawson T (2020) Guard Cell Metabolism and Stomatal Function. in Annual review of plant biology

publication icon
Matthews J (2018) Annual Plant Reviews online

publication icon
Matthews JSA (2020) Role of blue and red light in stomatal dynamic behaviour. in Journal of experimental botany

 
Description Agritech Event (Essex) to show case research activities to the industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact To showcase and describe research funding at Essex as well as our expertise and capabilities for interacting with the agriculture sector in order to facilitate collaborative research across the faculty and industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.agritech-east.co.uk/agri-tech-member/university-of-essex/#
 
Description Agritech Week event Essex 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact University of Essex Agritech event.
The event show cased research from Biological Sciences, including the expertise for the Lawson lab. It included presentations, lab-tours and workshop o see and discuss latest developments that are being applied in agricultural sector including:
• Drones
• Image analysis
• Measurement of plant performance
• Stress and disease monitoring
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Chairing a session at the Annual SEB meeting 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Co-chairing an SEB session on Stomata and photosynthetic regulation of water use efficiency at the annual SEB meeting in Seville.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.sebiology.org/events/event/seb-seville-2019/programme/plant-biology#stomatal
 
Description Gatsby masterclass 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Practical activity in which A level student extracted DNA from GM plant material and carried out PCR to check for gene of interest. This resulted in questions and discussions regarding the methods and the importance of plant science and "feeding the world".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited seminar speaker Viikki Plant Science Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Seminar describe current research and findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www2.helsinki.fi/en/news/science-news/vips-invited-seminar-december-2020
 
Description Nominated and selected as Co-chair of the GRC CO2 assimilation, USA 2019, and Chair of GRC on the next conference in Italy May 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Nominated and selected by peer to be the co-chair for the 2019 conference, and chair for the 2021 GRC conference on CO2 assimilation.

https://www.grc.org/co2-assimilation-in-plants-from-genome-to-biome-conference/2019/
https://www.grc.org/co2-assimilation-in-plants-from-genome-to-biome-conference/2021/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.grc.org/co2-assimilation-in-plants-from-genome-to-biome-conference/2019/
 
Description Nuffield Research placement provider 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Provided three summer placement funded by Nuffield for students to gain experience of working in a lab. Students built curiosity in plant sciences and in particular stomatal behavior. They had the opportunity to experience a real research lab environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description PEPG workshop 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The Plant Environmental Physiology Group (PEPG) is a special interest group of the Society for Experimental Biology and the British Ecological Society The Workshop provided a unique opportunity for MSc, PhD students and early career researchers to gain hands-on experience and training in plant ecophysiology techniques from leading scientists and manufacturers. There were 65 student from all around the world. The practical sessions stimulated research discussion and approaches. A poster session also provided the students with the opportunity to interact with established scientist and ask questions of their own research and approaches.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://sites.google.com/prod/view/pepg-workshop
 
Description Royal Society student conference (London RS) December 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This event followed the Royal Society partnership award that between myself at the University of Essex and Dr Tanja Hofmann One, Ipswich. This event included poster presentation by the school students as well as a display stand to demonstrate the application and benefits of using thermography to assess plant performance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Saclay Plant Sciences 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar series to present recent work and findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www6.inrae.fr/saclay-plant-sciences_eng/Events/Online-SPS-Seminars/Tracy-Lawson-19-10-2020
 
Description School Seminar (Bristol University) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Lunch time seminar showcase research activities and finding based on funded research within the lab.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description School Seminar (Glasgow University) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Lunch time seminar showcase research activities and finding based on funded research within the lab.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Seminar speaker for the 1st Brazilian photosynthesis meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research seminar to share data and findings
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.even3.com.br/brsymphotosynthesis20/
 
Description Speaker at the PEPg workshop (Lisbon) 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The Plant Environmental Physiology Group (PEPG) is a special interest group of the Society for Experimental Biology and the British Ecological Society The Workshop provided a unique opportunity for MSc, PhD students and early career researchers to gain hands-on experience and training in plant ecophysiology techniques from leading scientists and manufacturers. There were 65 student from all around the world. The practical sessions stimulated research discussion and approaches. A poster session also provided the students with the opportunity to interact with established scientist and ask questions of their own research and approaches.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://sites.google.com/prod/view/pepg-workshop/Home?authuser=0
 
Description Visited VIT India 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Presented some basic information on photosynthesis, followed by our research in the area of trying to improve photosynthetic capacity to increase yield. This raised a number of questions regarding the processes, mechanisms and even the use of GM technology and alternatives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019