Optimizing yield and flavour consistency of rocket greens

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Lancaster Environment Centre


Perennial wall rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia; Brassicaceae) is becoming an increasingly important food crop for its high nutrient content, ease of use in ready-made salads, and environmentally friendly perennial life history strategy.

While most crops use C3 photosynthesis, rocket uses a rare and poorly understood type of physiology called C2 photosynthesis. Plants that use C2 photosynthesis are efficient under warm, dry, and bright environments- but are also fairly plastic and should be able to shift physiologies between C3 and C2 pathways to maintain efficiency under different growth conditions. This CTP is therefore designed to characterize the photosynthetic diversity across rocket varieties (e.g., do those varieties originating from cold northern latitudes show weaker C2 characteristics than varieties originating from warm southern Europe?) and determine the degree to which each rocket variety can shift between C2 vs C3 photosynthetic pathways under different environments.

Studentship aims:
1. curate a collection of diverse rocket varieties;

2. grow this diversity under different growth conditions in a set of field trials (i.e., in southern Italy, northern Italy, Spain, and the UK) and under controlled environment conditions as part of a placement with Bakkavor;

3. quantify the biomass and flavour profile of diverse rocket varieties under each set of growth conditions; and

4. determine to what degree the physiology varies or remains constant across these rocket varieties in different environments, and how this affects yield and flavour. Shifts between C2 and C3 physiology will be assessed in rocket leaves via quantification of physiological, anatomical, and 13C stable isotope parameters.

This PhD project will ultimately identify the rocket varieties and environmental conditions that convey yield and flavour consistency and maximise biomass and flavour, to improve the sustainability and consumer attractiveness of this important crop.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/V509711/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024
2446615 Studentship BB/V509711/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Catherine Walsh