Improving crops’ resilience to climate change by understanding the molecular basis of seedling establishment


Dr Karim Sorefan, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology | +44 (0)114 2222720


Professor Jurriaan Ton, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

Grantham Scholar

Peter Venn

A crop’s yield depends on its resilience to environmental stresses. This resilience is threatened as climate change brings increasingly volatile environmental stresses, with potentially detrimental effects on crop production. But year on year increases in crop production are also required because of the world’s rapidly growing global population. To produce enough food to feed the growing population, we urgently need to breed crop plants that withstand the stresses of a changing climate.

Environmental stresses are most damaging to crop seedlings. Seedlings that establish quickly have the best chances of withstanding environmental stresses and yielding a crop. Although crop breeders select for seedlings with improved establishment, the regulation of seedling establishment is not fully understood. Seedling establishment requires an active shoot meristem, which is the source of cells for all above-ground parts of the plant, including the leaves, stems, fruits and seeds.

This project aims to understand how the shoot meristem is activated at a molecular and genetic level. Outcomes of the research have the potential to support crop breeding strategies that improve seedling establishment for greater crop resilience and food production.

Contact: Peter Venn,