Research into Plant and Soil within the Institute for Global Food Security focuses on the interaction between soil and plant health.
On the soils side this takes into account the subject areas of soil sustainability, soil nutritional biogeochemical cycling and soil born plant diseases such as nematodes.
The crop production side considers how to improve quantity and quality of agronomic production, again, with soils being central as the growth media.
The interface between roots and soil, the rhizosphere, is also of key interest with respect to how the root alters soil mineral nutrition, wards of disease and alters soil microbial diversity.
Tools and approaches used within the Plant and Soils theme include use of RNAi knockdown of plant genes involved in disease response, genomic approaches to studying phosphorus cycling in soils/sediments, utilisation of the Arabidopsis genome to investigate plant physiological processes and application of advanced speciation approaches to see how nutritionally and/or toxicologically important metal(loid)s are assimilated and metabolised by plants.
The theme widely collaborates globally with research programmes active in many countries, addressing key issues in food security and safety. To this end, much of the research focus is on grain and starchy root dietary staples as improving their production and quality will make a major impact to the world's health.
Andy Meharg researches how chemicals are mobilized assimilated by plants from soils, their subsequent metabolism & transport in plants, and their transfer into human and wildlife food-chains. Most of his work focuses on toxic trace elements such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and selenium; but also on essential trace and macro-elements (particularly phosphorus); and persistent organic pollutants. His main experimental systems or grain crops (barley, rice & wheat) and metal(loid) tolerant wild grasses. He uses state-of-the art analytical approaches (IC-ICP-MS, synchrotron XRF and XANES/XAFS) to speciate and localise elements in plant tissues and in soils.