Plant Biotechnology

Last changed: 10 July 2019

Plant oil, starch and protein are central to human food security and the development of a biobased society. Our major research questions focus on the genetic factors determining the quality and quantity as well as the channelling of fixed carbon to these different storage compounds.

We perform basic research using molecular biology and biochemistry finding novel enzymes and investigating enzyme properties of importance for lipid and starch biosynthesis. Other research is related to regulation of fixed carbon accumulation and what transcriptional networks are determining if storage compound accumulation is directed to oil, starch or protein. We are actively investigating yellow nutsedge and oat which uncommonly produce both oil and starch in tubers and endosperm respectively.

Genome editing has been successfully implemented in potato, producing new starch qualities for improved usability in food and technical products as well as a low-GI potato. Oilseeds and cereals are other crops where we utilize directed mutagenesis. Our broad competence in tissue culture makes out a very important part of this work.

To facilitate a plant-based protein shift we perform research to improve faba bean for food applications and to increase the quality of protein from side streams of oilseed rape and potato processing. We study crops, such as quinoa and faba bean, to understand what factors regulate storage protein traits and to develop molecular tools that can be used in breeding.

The domestication of a novel oil and catch crop, Lepidium campestre, is a long term strategic project to increase diversity in agriculture. Our research questions focus on pod shattering, glucosinolates, oil content and quality using integration of genetic elements as well as mutations.

Plant transformation has yielded Crambe abyssinica with oil of different qualities such as high erucic and containing wax esters. Erucic acid is used as a slipping agent in plastics production while wax esters are excellent lubrication agents.

Plant resilience is a desired breeding target to future-proof crop production in a changing world and we are investigating the role of susceptibility/resistance factors as well as autophagy in barley, oilseeds and potato as means to increase robustness and food security.

"Molecular farming" is explored by plant production of hemoglobin and myoglobin which could be used in blood replacement products and the production of insect pheromones or precursors in plants for the production of more environmentally benign pest control agents.

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