Although not regarded as an essential element, silicon improves tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses in many plant species, including wheat. However, the molecular mechanisms underpinning the beneficial effects of silicon have not yet been elucidated. Using a range of genetically-diverse wheat cultivars, as well as transgenic wheat over-expressing a silicon transporter, my PhD project will investigate variation in silicon accumulation and deposition under stress conditions, including drought and salinity. Additionally, how silicon transporter gene expression varies between cultivars under stress conditions will be examined. Cultivars with the highest silicon concentrations could be used in wheat breeding programs to create more stress-tolerant cultivars, as are required to ensure food security under current climate change predictions.
Prior to my PhD, I completed a master’s in advanced biology at the University of Liverpool. My master’s project investigated how genes involved in the plant defence response have affected plant adaptation to long-term drought.