Crop Science Centre - Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Darius Zarrabian

Darius Zarrabian


Darius is a PhD student in the Oldroyd group, investigating the impact of nutrient levels on symbiotic permissibility in barley and the mechanisms by which this can be overridden for the potential of more sustainable fertiliser use in the future.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Important discovery will facilitate future engineering of nitrogen fixation into cereals

Important discovery will facilitate future engineering of nitrogen fixation into cereals

News
Nodules

New discoveries, published in the journal Science on October 29th, show how legume cells in the nodule transition into the nitrogen-fixing state, control multiple different mechanisms that support bacteria inside the nodules and the enzyme nitrogenase necessary for nitrogen fixation. Legumes engage with nitrogen fixing bacteria in nodules, which provide a specilised environment for nitrogen fixation.

These discoveries were facilitated by the first detection of the nodulation master regulator protein NODULE INCEPTION (NIN), that controls many aspects of nodulation and now is shown to also control this transition into nitrogen fixation.

The work provides an important advance in understanding the symbiotic relationship between plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria and facilitates future engineering of nitrogen fixation into cereals, dispensing the need for fertilising cereal crops by enabling them to fix their own nitrogen.

 First described in 1999, NIN is essential for developing a new root organ, called a nodule, where symbiotic bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. Although it has been studied for two decades, the NIN protein has been difficult to detect, and it remains unknown how NIN coordinates multiple stages of nodule formation. 

The first author, Jian Feng, said, “Solving the problem of how NIN could be detected revealed surprising results about the processing of NIN, that explained how this protein controls many different aspects of nodulation”.

Proteolytic processing of NIN appears to allow the protein to activate processes associated with nitrogen fixation and this late processing of NIN allows the protein to have different early and late functions in establishing nitrogen-fixing nodules. 

The corresponding author, Giles Oldroyd, said, “We are striving to transfer the capability to fix nitrogen to cereal crops. Understanding how nitrogen fixation is induced in the legume nodule is important in helping us transfer this process to cereals”. 

This work was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as Engineering the Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa (ENSA) project; the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; and the Gatsby Foundation.

Read the full article by following this link https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abg2804

 

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Eleni Soumpourou

Eleni Soumpourou


Eleni is managing the Platforms at the Crop Science Centre. These include gene synthesis, construct design and assembly, plant transformation, genetics, and sequencing. Before taking up this post she was working as a Platform manager in the ENSA (Engineering Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa) project at the Sainsbury Laboratory. Prior to this she was working as senior research technician for the same project at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Eleni gained her PhD degree in Plant Microbe Interactions from the University of East Anglia, UK, Norwich.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Edwin Jarratt Barnham

Edwin Jarratt Barnham


Edwin is a PhD student working with Giles Oldroyd to study the mechanisms by which plants develop mutualistic interactions with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Edwin received his BA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge. He completed his final year in the Department of Plant Sciences where he worked in John Carr’s lab, studying plant defences to viruses. During this time he also worked with Julia Davies to study the function of plant cyclic nucleotide-gated channels.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Tak Lee

Tak Lee


Tak received his Ph.D. at the Yonsei University, South Korea, studying biological functional gene networks in plant species. He moved to Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University for a Postdoctoral research position with Professor Giles Oldroyd, later moving on to the Crop Science Center. Tak’s research is focused on dissecting the genetic networks of model legumes in comparison with cereal crops during symbiosis with microorganisms via high-throughput transcriptomics, genetics, molecular biology and bioinformatic analysis. 

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Medhavi Kakkar

Medhavi Kakkar


My work as a PhD student concentrates on understanding relationships between crops and beneficial microbes in the soil, specifically how these interactions relate to crop nutrition. I am investigating the molecular mechanisms that underlie symbiosis between Barley and mycorrhizal fungi, with my research being funded by the Trinity Cawthorn PhD Studentship in Crop Sciences.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Ben White

Ben White


I’m a PhD student working in Uta Paszkowski's Cereal Symbiosis group where I will be investigating the role of specific root types in phosphorus uptake in roots. My work will look at both the symbiotic and asymbiotic pathways with a focus on the phosphate transporters. 

Prior to starting my PhD I did my MSci in plant sciences at the University of Bristol in Jill Harrison’s lab where I worked on the evolution of meristem signalling.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Martina Orvošová

Martina Orvošová


I am an MPhil student in the Paszkowski Cereal Symbiosis Group, working on exploring the arbuscule morphology and nutrient transporter localization under different nutritional regimes. I have completed my undergraduate degree in Cambridge and have worked on arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis and root nodule symbiosis.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Gabriel Ferreras Garrucho

Gabriel Ferreras Garrucho


I’m a PhD student in the Cereal Symbiosis Group, working on the spatial (tissular and subcellular) regulation of D14L, an essential receptor for the symbiotic competence of rice. For this purpose, I will be creating, testing and characterizing (on a phenotypical, transcriptomic and proteomic level) a variety of rice lines expressing GFP-tagged D14L under different promoters and localization signals. I am funded by St John’s College with a Benefactor’s Scholarship.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Tom Thirkell

Tom Thirkell


I’m a plant physiological ecologist with interests in sustainable agriculture, crop nutrition and soil microbial ecology. My work focusses on the interactions between crop plants and soil microbes, especially the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. At the Crop Science Centre, I'm using complimentary greenhouse and field trial experiments to investigate the role of mycorrhizas in crop nutrition.

Publications

Sustainable food production for everyone

The Crop Science Centre is a coalition between the University of Cambridge, Department of Plant Sciences, and NIAB. This coalition focuses on translational research in crops with real-world impact. We combine the diverse skills and expertise of the University and NIAB, providing an environment for research excellence with the capability to apply discoveries to crop improvement in the field.

Our research is interdisciplinary and of global relevance. We strive to improve both staple crops such as maize, wheat and rice, but also the specific crops of relevance to small-holder farmers, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Centre provides leadership in crop sciences, with a creative and dynamic research culture, motivated by improvement of agriculture for the betterment of society.

Our mission

At the Crop Science Centre, we are generating crop plants that deliver sufficient food for everyone in a sustainable way

  • We deliver agricultural impact, using excellence in research
  • We strive for sustainability, reducing agricultural reliance on chemical inputs
  • We foster equality, valuing all members of our research community
  • We believe in equity, ensuring even the world’s poorest farmers can grow enough food

Years of research has provided a deep understanding of how plants function, creating opportunities to transform the way we produce our food.  I am motivated to improve the sustainability and the equity of food production worldwide

Professor Giles Oldroyd,
CSC Director

Professor Giles Oldroyd

“At the Crop Science Centre we have the scientific breadth and track record to rapidly respond to one of the grand challenges of our time: growing enough nutritious food for an increasing population while reducing inputs and green house emissions.”

Professor Mario Caccamo,
CEO and Director of NIAB

Professor Mario Caccamo

“We envisage that new CSC crop technologies will enable higher crop yields and lower environmental impact for crop-based food production – as well as contributing to improved dietary health.”

Sir David Baulcombe,
Royal Society Professor

Sir David Baulcombe