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Toorop, Peter

Photo of Peter Tooroop
Job title: 

Senior Scientist Diagnostics

Seed Conservation
Joined Kew: 


Foreign languages: 

Dutch (mother tongue), French (basic), Portuguese (basic).

Qualifications and appointments: 
  • MSc (equivalent) Biology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, 1988
  • PhD (equivalent) Agricultural Science, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, 1998
  • Editorial boards: Kew Scientist, Seed Science Research, Revista Brasileira de Sementes
  • External grants: ARC AUk$297, CNPq mR$1.3
  • Correspondent for and member of the Dutch Institute for Biology (2001-2009)

Molecular characterisation and (eco)physiological aspects of seed quality

  • Science management: member of Departmental Student Steering Committee
  • Science advice: regular reviewer of manuscripts for a range of peer-reviewed journals (eg Annals of Botany, Genomics, Plant Science)
  • Science supervision: five PhD students that were co-supervised (completed 2006-2011)
  • Science communication and dissemination: contributions were made to courses in Lavras (MG, Brazil) 2007 and 2008, in Oviedo (Spain) 2008, and in Salvador (BA, Brazil) 2010

Scientific interests/activities:

Our assessment of the germination process is often based on the observation of radicle protrusion, which marks the end of germination. Dormancy, ageing and storage behaviour are aspects of seed quality that influence germination capacity of banked seeds, and fitness of these populations depends on their genetic variation. Parameters to assess dormancy and longevity routinely other than germination tests are not commonly available.

One particularly poorly understood type of dormancy is physiological dormancy, which often cannot be broken easily resulting in accessions with inadequate performance. Improving knowledge of the molecular background of physiological dormancy contributes to a better assessment of seed quality. Model species are used to deepen the knowledge, while a wider range of species is used in comparison.

A range of species of particular interest is those from the Brazilian Cerrado and Caatinga, which are biodiversity hotspots. My research areas of interest lie not only in the molecular and physiological aspects of seed dormancy, including cycling through induction and breaking of physiological seed dormancy, but also seed desiccation tolerance, genomics and proteomics as tools to better understand seed physiology, seed ageing, genetic diversity of seed populations in relation to seed physiological traits, seed development aspects, post-germination desiccation tolerance, and seed enhancement treatments (priming).

Ultimately, improved understanding in these areas will lead to enhanced diagnostics tools with potential applications, eg improved in situ restoration. As part of the dissemination of acquired knowledge, I have taken part in teaching seed physiology modules as part of post-graduate courses and was invited to speak in Aracaju (Brazil 2008), Curitiba (Brazil 2009), and Bristol (2010).

Selected publications: 

Toorop, P. E., Campos Cuerva R., Begg G. S., Locardi B., Squire G. R., Iannetta P. P. M. (2012). Co-adaptation of seed dormancy and flowering time in the arable weed Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medik. (shepherd’s purse). Annals of Botany 109: 481–489. Available online

Santamaría, M. E., Rodríguez, R., Cañal, M. J., Toorop, P. E. (2011). Transcriptome analysis of chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) tree buds suggests a putative role for epigenetic control of bud dormancy. Annals of Botany 108: 485–498. Available online

Finch-Savage, W. E., Cadman, C. S. C., Toorop, P. E., Lynn, J. R., Hilhorst, H. W. M. (2007). Seed dormancy release in Arabidopsis Cvi by dry after-ripening, low temperature, nitrate and light shows common quantitative patterns of gene expression directed by environmentally specific sensing. The Plant Journal 51: 60–78. Available online

Cadman, C. S. C., Toorop, P. E., Hilhorst, H. W. M., Finch-Savage, W. E. (2006). Gene expression profiles of Arabidopsis Cvi seeds during cycling through dormant and non-dormant states indicate a common underlying dormancy control mechanism. The Plant Journal 46: 805–822. Available online

Toorop, P. E., Barroco, R. M., Engler, G., Groot, S. P. C., Hilhorst, H. W. M. (2005). Differentially expressed genes associated with dormancy or germination of Arabidopsis thaliana seeds. Planta 221: 637–647. Available online