Plant Resources

Researching crops, including utilised and underutilised plants, wild relatives and managed wild plant resources.

Hands holding soil and small coffee plant

Team lead: Dr Aaron Davis

Plant groups of interest: rain-fed woody crops, forage crops, wood and timber, roots and tubers, legumes, strawberries and other soft fruit and minor cereals.  

Our research activities include: genomics, plant-animal nutrition, resource identification and traceability, plant breeding, climate resilience, agro-ecology and plant resource use and development. 

Here are examples of the types of crops and the current research we are undertaking:

  • Coffee Studying the plant systematics and evolution. The role and applications of diversity (including crop wild relatives), climate change and climate resilience, agro-ecology, conservation, plant health, livelihoods and product development. 
  • Plant breeding We harness genetic diversity from wild relatives to improve crops with the focus on legumes and brassicas. We also study legume domestication and the genetic control of phenology.  
  • Grasses and other forage crops We research agro-ecology, biodiversity, climate change, ecology and plant-herbivore interactions of these crops. Tools used include chamber experiments, field surveys, sensor technologies and phenological modelling. 
  • Wood and timber We use microscopy and other techniques to characterise and identify different types of wood, especially those in international trade and covered by EU Timber Regulations and CITES. The emphasis is on Leguminosae and Quercus and CITES-listed timbers. 
  • Genomics We study how variation in genome structure and chromosome composition influences meiotic recombination and inheritance using high-throughput sequencing and molecular cytogenetic methods. Our current focus is on how genomic divergence influences the introgression of genes into crops from their wild relatives.

To sum up, significant overarching issues include: food and resource security, climate change, maintenance and restoration of ecosystem services, supply chain resilience, health and public outreach.  

Our research supports a varied stakeholder community, from producers to consumers. 


Team members

Senior research leader 
Dr Aaron Davis
Research leaders
Dr Peter Gasson 
Dr Mark Lee 
Dr Caspar Chater

Future Leadership Fellow
Dr Jemima Brinton

Research assistant
Isabella Miles-Bunch