Our last Keynote Speaker announcement!
I am interested in how the plant controls the production of pollen and the regulatory gene networks that are involved in this pathway. We have been working with a number of transcription factors that are expressed in the maternal tapetum tissue of the anther, which control the formation of the pollen wall and regulate the progression of pollen development. These gene networks are highly conserved across species and we have translated this knowledge from Arabidopsis to crops such as rice, barley and wheat. The aims of this are to characterise the reproductive processes in the crops so that we can develop effective breeding systems for hybrid development to improve crop yields. Of particular interest is the impact of abiotic stress on pollen development and the damaging effect that it can have on crop fertility and thus yield. Abiotic stress can result in failure of pollen development, which results in significant losses in yield and productivity. This is therefore a major future challenge to maintain crop yields alongside climate change and extremes in weather.