Cara Wheeldon

The role of root exudates in density-dependent growth responses in plants

About me

I completed my BSc in Genetics at the University of Leeds and during this time I carried out a summer internship and my final year project in Dr Tom Bennett’s lab. My interest in plant science began during my time in the Bennett lab as I became fascinated with how plants make decisions about their development in response to environmental factors. Following a short technician post after completing my undergraduate degree, I continued my studies in the Bennett lab by completing a research masters, where I explored plant responses to physical aspects of the soil environment including soil volume, soil depth and interactions with neighbouring plants. During my research masters I presented a poster at Monogram 2019, a cereals conference, where I was awarded a GARNet travel grant and a poster prize. My interest in plant responses to space and the need for yield improvements in cereals lead to me to apply for this PhD.

My project

Plants constantly integrate information about their environment to control their growth and development. However, the mechanisms by which plants detect and respond to the physical components of their soil environment, such as soil volume and the presence of other plants remains widely unknown. Understanding these mechanisms would be highly valuable for generating improvements in crops and perhaps lead to yield enhancements. During my PhD, I will build on the findings from my masters project with the aim of elucidating candidate genes involved in root density sensing and investigate the role of root exudates involved in this phenomenon using barley, pea and Arabidopsis.


Twitter: @CaraWheeldon