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Hutton Seminar Series: Are crop seeds relatively dysfunctional compared to native species' seeds?

Hutton Seminars
6 February 2018, 10:30am
at James Hutton Institute, Macaulay B (Aberdeen) streamed to Dundee site
for scientists, students, researchers and anyone interested
Hutton Seminar Series 2018 badge

Predictions of the negative impacts of climate change on crops often identify risks of decreasing seed yield (mass, number). Similar impacts on native species have implications for seed dispersal efficiency. However, the environment also imprints on the physiological processes of seed dormancy and germination. Such thermal memory allows individuals to acclimatise to their surroundings. Does this mean then that crop seed produced under more ‘managed’ conditions will be effectively less able to cope physiologically with future climate conditions than well-adapted native species? Dr Hugh Pritchard's team has explored, experimentally and through a meta-analysis, the thermal time efficiency of seed germination for a range of crop and crop wild relatives (and other native species). Such quantification reveals that crop seed production may have unintended consequences for seed physiological vigour under stressful conditions for germination. In this project, Dr Pritchard collaborated with partners Elena Castillo-Lorenzo, Charlotte Seal, Eduardo Fernandez-Pascual (Kew) and Bill Finch-Savage (Warwick), with funding from a grant-in-aid to Kew from Defra; EU Co-fund (EF-P) and EU FP7 EcoSeed Project (HWP, EC-L,CS, WF-S).

Dr Hugh Pritchard is Head of Comparative Seed Biology research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He has a PhD in plant cryobiology and >30 years’ experience in genetic resources preservation, including as a member of the senior management team delivering the Millennium Seed Bank Project / Partnership through to 2014. His research specialities include seed cryopreservation, germination modelling and stress biology. He has published >200 scientific papers (c. 57% in international peer-reviewed journals), including in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The Plant Journal, Biotechnology Advances and Trends in Plant Science. Citation indices include an h-index of 43 on Google Scholar and a ResearchGate score of 39.8. His research work is multidisciplinary in approach and his research group (5 post-doctoral fellows, supporting 10 PhD students currently) has global connections, publishing with co-authors from >30 countries (from Brazil to China) in the last 10 years. He has led four Darwin Initiative (UK) projects (2003-17) involving 16 countries in Africa, 9 countries in the Americas and 6 countries in Asia. He has managed Kew’s role on two EU Framework 7 projects on ‘climate and seed quality’ and ‘native seed biology’ and a NERC project on seeds of Amazonian plants. He has acted as consultant for the Crop Trust (three times) and the USDA (twice), and is a regular grant reviewer for the RCUK. In addition to being a publisher of the low temperature science journal CryoLetters, he has been chairman of the Society for Low Temperature Biology (2008-11) and a governor at Writtle University College, UK (2008-12). He is chairman of the Seed Storage Committee of the International Seed Testing Association. He holds honorary professorships from the University of Sussex and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is a fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and the Linnean Society; and is an elected member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa. He was a Senior International Visiting Professor with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2011 and 2017. He leads for Kew on the collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.