Title: professor translational genomics for plant breeding
Association/Company: IBERS, Aberystwyth University
My research applies biotechnology approaches to study functional genomics in plants with a current focus on gene editing. I related interests in plant tissue culture, chloroplast transformation, RNAi and in validating promoters for targeting expression to pre-defined tissues. As a university academic I collaborate widely and have published over 250 research papers, books and other articles in plant molecular genetics, biotechnology and risk assessment. In addition to my research and teaching interests I have expertise in risk assessment and food safety, and in policy for regulation of biotechnology. I am a current member of the UK Food Standards Agency’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes and I served on the GMO panel of European Food Safety Authority from 2009-2018, the last two years as vice-chair.
New breeding aims are needed to close the innovation gap for novel cultivation technologies
To maximize the impact of innovation in plant cultivation technologies, new crop cultivars with specific characteristics are required. Investment in soilless systems, multi-stacked LED-lit platforms, sensor technology with robotic husbandry and harvesting will only achieve its full potential when relevant aspects of plant anatomy and crop architecture are co-optimised. The time is right for a marriage of physics and biology! Thanks to massive sequencing activity and functional genomic research, our understanding of the genes and transcription factor families that control key aspects of plant structure and function are becoming better understood. This coincides with a suite of new breeding technologies such as genome editing that can make the precise changes to the genetic code and generate novel crop varieties with the fine-tuned characteristics needed for efficient hydroponic horticulture or managed field agriculture.