Enhancing plant resilience via stress-priming - a solution for sustainable agricultural development

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences


Plants are highly adaptive and adjust their development and physiology according to the environment. Intriguingly, exposure to one type of stress seems to be able to enhance general resilience. For example, gentle physical stimulation via pressing or stroking result in boosting of structural strength (shorter and stiffer shoots), as well as tolerance against various types of biotic and abiotic stressors [1]. In fact, farmers in Japan have used such natural plant responses as a crop pre-conditioning method, which is effective enough to increase the yields of wheat and barley by 20-50% [2]. Such thigmo (touch in Greek)-priming strategy is accessible, immediately applicable, and compatible with smallholder farming, and thus has a great potential to catalyse sustainable food security in developing countries.

Together with an interdisciplinary team of collaborators from social science and multiple fields of natural sciences, we are developing practical thigmo-priming protocols for cereal crops in two specific developing countries based on the environmental, social, and cultural needs and circumstances. Meanwhile, there are very little quantitative and mechanistic studies on thigmo-priming, and thus we are not able to modify protocols based on scientific data. This PhD project is to reveal input-output relationships of a variation of thigmo-priming protocols, in order to establish their biological underpinnings and to customise them for specific requirements of local farmer communities.

With this project the student will be trained in molecular and systems study of plant development, as well as integrative and multi-perspective approaches for international agricultural development via collaborations with social, computer, and engineering scientists. It is likely to involve fieldworks in the UK and developing countries.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M010996/1 01/10/2015 31/03/2024
1943665 Studentship BB/M010996/1 30/09/2021 31/03/2022