Hannah Jones

Seasonality control of barley flowering: from the lab to the field (i-CASE)

About me

I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a BSc in Biology, having completed an Erasmus year abroad at the University of Valencia. During my final year my interests shifted towards plant science, sustainable agriculture, and food security.

After graduating I worked as a research technician in the Strutt Lab (Sheffield), using fruit flies as a model to understand the coordination of cell organisation during early development. The transferable skills I gained in this role were instrumental in my subsequent position in the Fleming Lab (Sheffield). My work there focused on 3D leaf structure and whether the rice leaf could be optimised for photosynthesis at elevated CO2.

This PhD project caught my interest because it sits at the intersection of academia and industry. I was also drawn to the opportunity to expand my skillset by training in field-based research, genetics and bioinformatics.

My project

My project is an iCASE partnership supervised by Professor Seth Davis and Dr Andrea Harper at the University of York and by Dr Monika Spiller at Syngenta Agro GmbH.

One of the greatest challenges facing humanity is how to sustainably feed a growing population with our planet’s limited resources. Complicating matters further, climate change and extreme weather events threaten agricultural productivity and food security. We must find novel ways to increase crop yields if we are to surmount these challenges.

One of the most influential aspects of a plant’s biology is its circadian clock – an internal timekeeping mechanism that integrates environmental information into a network of interlocking transcriptional feedback loops. The rhythmic outputs of the clock govern a wide-ranging array of processes, including photosynthesis, resistance to biotic and abiotic stressors, and flower induction.

Flowering – the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth – is a critical agronomic trait, and its timing is a target for commercial cereal breeding. Syngenta have introgressed Davis Lab-identified clock mutations into elite winter barley cultivars, and I will assess and characterise these lines under laboratory and field conditions. As various clock mutations have historically been used to migrate barley cultivars to new climatic conditions, we hope my findings will allow the development of barley cultivars with flowering times optimised to their agroclimatic zone.

Another interest of mine is the structure of the barley circadian clock. While the circadian clock network of Arabidopsis has been well-researched, the barley clock has received less attention and its exact dynamics are unknown. As barley is used as a model species for temperate cereal crops, better understanding the function of its circadian clock could facilitate research into other economically important crops – such as wheat and rye – as well as barley itself.


LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-jones-bsc/