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Optimising temperature regimes in glasshouse production systems

Primary Supervisor: Dr Laura Vickers, Crop & Environmental Sciences

Secondary supervisors: Dr Jonathan Cooper and Dr John Reade

PhD project title: Optimising temperature regimes in glasshouse production systems

University of Registration: Harper Adams University

Today’s food production systems offer a dietary imbalance, supplying a surfeit of inexpensive calories from cheap commodity crops. Efforts to encourage consumption and production of more fruit and vegetables is global (Drewnowkiet al, 2004). Glasshouse production of fruit and vegetables is often noted for high productivity, water and nutrient-use efficiency over field grown systems, and is a well established production method in temperate regions to extend crop seasons and supplement a supply of popular fruit and vegetables.

However, protected horticulture (such as glasshouse production) is accountable for around 58% of the total energy used by UK horticulture (Warwick HRI, 2007), with tomatoes accounting for 20% of that energy use. High energy consumption is related to the use of supplementary lighting and heating systems to grow crops in temperature climates. It has been argued that intelligent integration of renewable energy sources could significantly reduce this energy need. Al-Chalabi (2015) concluded that the use of renewables such as solar panels could provide sufficient energy in certain growing scenarios. Aside renewable source integration many growers are open to optimising their energy use, through reducing energy consumption or using energy efficient technologies such as LED lights. Energy reduction could be achieved through optimising heating and lighting regimes, reducing photoperiods and temperatures as much as permisable without compromising yields. This project sets out to explore how adaptable a tomato crop is to a temperature regime focused on energy conservation wthin a glasshouse growing system. 

The project sets out to:

  • Optimise temperature regimes for UK glasshouse tomato production, by evaluating the effect of temperature diurnally and throughout the tomato crop development. Under each temperature regime plant performance will be assessed through yield components (pollen viability/fruit mass) and biochemical analysis (vitamin C, β-carotene and protein analyses through methods such as HPLC and assay work).
  • The project will also evaluate the effect of temperature regimes established in objective 1 against temperature stress components (such as transcription factor Sl-CBF1) through techniques such as qPCR (Weiss and Egea-Cortines, 2009)
  • The final objective of the porject is to undertake a social science approach and establish uptake and barriers of renewables in glasshouse production, examining the motivations, needs and knowledge gaps in glasshouse producers. This work will build on collaborative work between Harper Adams University and the University of Valladolid taking place in 2019-20 on the economic viability of greenhouses that are integrated with renewable systems.

Working alongside biochemists, biologists and social geographers in their approach, this studentship proposal offers a project that is multidisciplinary, impactful, intellectual, and collaborative.

References:

  1. Al-Chalabi, M. 2015. Vertical farming: Skyscraper sustainability? Sustainable Cities and Society 18, 74-77
  2. Drewnowski A, Darmon N, Briend A. 2004. Replacing fats and sweets with vegetables and fruits—a question of cost. American Journal of Public Health 94, 1555–1559
  3. Warwick HRI. 2007. Final report to Defra. AC0401: Direct energy use in agriculture: opportunities for reducing fossil fuel inputs
  4. Weiss, J. and Egea-Cortines, M. (2009) Transcriptomic analysis of cold response in tomato fruits identifies dehydrin as a marker of cold stress. Journal of Applied Genetics 50 (4), 311-9

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Sustainable Agriculture and Food: Plant and Crop Science

Contact: Dr Laura Vickers, Harper Adams University