Prof Steve Penfield

Project Leader
Crop Genetics

Weather and climate have important influences on plant development which ultimately cause variation in crop yield and crop performance known as yield instability.

Breeding more resilient crops will be important for mitigating the effects of changes in weather and climate on crop performance, but to do this we need a good understanding of the biological processes that underlie variation in yield.  

A key feature of most plants is that seed development and seed performance are highly dependent on the environment which the parent plants have experienced.

My group are focussed on understanding how temperature variation during seed production leads to changes in seeds, including seed development, seed dormancy and post-germination growth vigour. Because most of our major crops are seed crops, we are showing that these processes lead to yield variation in major crops, at the laboratory, field and landscape scales.

Using this knowledge we are devising and testing strategies to engineer rapeseed and vegetable Brassica crops to be less sensitive to the environment, and to perform more resiliently for farmers and growers even in the face of weather variation and climate change.

Working with industrial partners we are taking novel germplasm through to field trials to evaluate potential for genetic seed quality improvement.

Dr Steve Penfield to lead research for more vigorous seeds

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Scientists discover why flowers bloom earlier in a warming climate

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Mother plants teach seeds about seasons and give them a thicker coat when it’s cold

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Five new Project Leaders join the John Innes Centre

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Recent Publications

Fedi F., O'Neill C. M., Menard G., Trick M., Dechirico S., Corbineau F., Bailly C., Eastmond P. J., Penfield S. (2017)

Awake1, an ABC-Type Transporter, Reveals an Essential Role for Suberin in the Control of Seed Dormancy.

Plant Physiology 174 p276-283

Publisher’s version: 10.1104/pp.16.01556

Penfield S., MacGregor D. R. (2016)

Effects of environmental variation during seed production on seed dormancy and germination

Journal of Experimental Botany doi:10.1093/jxb/erw436 pdoi:10.1093/jxb/erw436

Publisher’s version: 10.1093/jxb/erw436

Dave A., Vaistij F. E., Gilday A. D., Penfield S. D., Graham I. A. (2016)

Regulation of Arabidopsis thaliana seed dormancy and germination by 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid.

Journal of Experimental Botany 67 p2277-84

Publisher’s version: 10.1093/jxb/erw028

Riach A. C., Perera M. V., Florance H. V., Penfield S. D., Hill J. K. (2015)

Analysis of plant leaf metabolites reveals no common response to insect herbivory by Pieris rapae in three related host-plant species.

Journal of Experimental Botany 66 p2547-56

Publisher’s version: 10.1093/jxb/erv045

MacGregor D. R., Penfield S. (2015)

Exploring the pleiotropy of hos1.

Journal of Experimental Botany 66 p1661-71

Publisher’s version: 10.1093/jxb/erv022

View All

Steve Penfield

  • Dr Min Chen Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Carmel O'Neill Research Assistant
  • Naichao Zhang Research Assistant
  • Dr Nick Pullen Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Guangyuan Lu Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Xiaochao Chen Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Jessica Hughes Postgraduate Student
  • Amber Ramans-Harborough Postgraduate Student

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