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Malcolm Bennett

Professor Malcolm Bennett

Professor Malcolm Bennett

Research Fellow

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Re-engineering plant and crop root systems architecture

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Organisation: University of Nottingham

Dates: Aug 2013-Jul 2018

Value: £50,000

Summary: The Royal Society uses case studies of Research Fellows to demonstrate the value of our fellowships to Government and to identify holders who may be suitable for media and other promotion opportunities. Please supply a short lay summary of your research which includes the following: Your research area; a short lay explanation of the science; the potential impact of your work and the possible applications/benefit to society (where applicable). Your summary should be no more than 2000 characters in length. Food security represents a pressing global issue. Crop production has to double by 2050 to keep pace with global population growth. This target is even more challenging given the impact of climate change on water availability and the drive to reduce fertilizer inputs to make agriculture become more environmentally sustainable. In both cases, developing crops with improved water and nutrient uptake efficiency would provide a solution. Root architecture critically influences nutrient and water uptake efficiency. For example, rooting depth impacts the efficient acquisition of soil nitrogen (and water) since nitrate leaches deep into the soil. In contrast, phosphate use efficiency could be significantly improved without increasing root depth by manipulating the angle of root growth to better explore the topsoil where this macronutrient accumulates. Many of the genes that regulate root architecture such as angle, depth and branching have been identified in plant genetic models such as Arabidopsis. I aim to translate this knowledge to re-engineer root traits. To better understand exactly which combination of root traits and genes determine water and nutrient use efficiency in crops, I will exploit recent investment and technical advances in root phenotyping employing robotics, microCT imaging and analysis at the new Hounsfield CT Facility.

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