Two services for plant scientists to consider

Categories: resource
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: January 28, 2013

Sometimes, experiments are too big, too expensive, or too specialist to do yourself or to negotiate a collaboration with someone who can. Fortunately there is a way for some of you to get those experiments done – but as ever, it involves competing for funding. Today I’ll highlight two service providers who are taking applications from researchers for a limited number of fully funded services. 

The BBSRC are funding the Community Resource for Wheat Transformation at NIAB. NIAB scientists are wheat transformation specialists, and use a non-commercialized method with over 30% success rate – higher than standard Agrobacterium-mediated wheat transformation (Harwood, 2012). The ‘Community Resource’ is 50 single gene transformations, which researchers must apply for. Half of the transformations are reserved for model plant researchers wanting to test a gene of interest in wheat. The application form is fairly straightforward, requesting information about the proposed gene and research; and how it links to BBSRC food security targets. You need to apply by Thursday this week. If successful, the researcher provides NIAB with a gene in an Entry construct flanked by aatL sequences. NIAB performs the transformation, and delivers the researcher 30 inpendent transformed plants as either plantlets or T1 seed, having confirmed transgenesis by PCR or QPCR.

The Centre for Plant Integrative Biology at the University of Nottingham and the National Plant Phenomics Centre at Aberystwyth University is just one of 14 participants in the European Plant Phenotyping Network (EPPN; Ruth blogged about the centre in Julich a few weeks ago). Researchers can apply for access to CPIB (or another European EPPN installation) to do a phenotyping experiment. ‘Access’ includes:

  • free access for eligible user groups to research facilities;
  • support for travel;
  • on-site logistic support by the infrastructure staff;
  • access to knowledge and know-how at the research infrastructures necessary to complete the proposed experimental work

How many ways can you measure a plant?

Categories: GARNet, guest blogger, methods
Comments: No Comments
Published on: January 8, 2013

In December, Ruth gave a talk at the Julich Plant Phenotyping Centre – here she explains what’s going on in plant phenotyping at the moment. 

Recently I had the opportunity to visit and talk at the Julich Plant Phenotyping Centre in Germany and see the wealth of tools and technologies that the centre has available to measure and analyse plant growth and development in a non invasive manner. By using a range of sensors and computer vision tools for quantifying plant traits the centre aims to help overcome the current bottleneck in effectively linking genotype to phenotype.

As a mere amateur in this field, I used CCD cameras during my Ph.D to monitor circadian rhythms and during my post-docs I just counted leaves to determine flowering time. I was amazed by the depth and breadth of analysis that can now be carried out, and on such a large scale.

For example their purpose built automated Rhizo screen enables researchers to non-invasively obtain quantitative measurements of root architectures of plants grown in soil in 2D as well as evaluating shoot area. Whilst a variety of spectral and optical imaging systems sensitive to a wide range of wavelengths provide a plethora information from chlorophyll fluorescence, water content, lignin and cellulose composition to growth dynamics via leaf area. The centre also has a NMR, MRI and PET setup to visualize the inner structure of plant organs and tissue and transport of substances such as CO2. (Fiorani et al. Imaging plants dynamics in heterogenic environments. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 23: 227-235).

Julich is just one of a number of phenotyping centres that are being established all over Europe, including the UK centre at Aberystwyth. The major European centres have been linked together in the European Plant Phenotyping Network (EPPN). This network offers access to 23 different plant phenotpying facilities spread across the EU. So if you haven’t experienced the power of phenomics yet this might be one way to dip your toe in phenotyping water!

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