Impact of silicon on wheat: a potential route to crop drought resilience

FUNDING: 10 weeks (full time, 37 hrs per week, £12 per hour, £850 consumables, £500 student accommodation bursary)
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LOCATION: Sheffield, UK

Katie Shaw, Biology, Sheffield

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Drought stress has devastating effects on global wheat yields and as climate change progresses, the frequency and intensity of droughts will increase. Application of silicon has been shown to improve drought resilience in several crops including wheat, however, it is not known how or why. We have recently tested the impact of silicon across several wheat varieties, suggesting that silicon affects both leaf water loss and increases root size. To test this further, the student will learn how to grow wheat, apply silicon, control carbon dioxide levels, carry out thermal imaging, measure leaf silicon content using X-ray fluorescence, and measure the number and size of stomata (pores). Beyond this the student will also investigate key root characteristics by growing wheat hydroponically with and without silicon, taking standard root-shoot measurements and carrying out statistical analysis. This project will define how silicon builds drought tolerance and will allow the student to gain laboratory experience in plant physiology, equipping them with techniques for testing plant responses to climate change. Students will be expected to present their findings orally at a research day in York in September 2024.