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Plant Feedstocks for Renewables

Plants and plant biomass represent a treasure trove of complex natural compounds that cannot be synthesised artificially. Plant biomass can also provide an abundant source of alternative chemical feedstocks.

The difficulties lie in understanding the genetics of the plant in question in order to optimise production of the desired chemical composition.

Such understanding also assists our ability to extract the compounds from the plant. Extraction can be affected by the presence of secondary metabolites produced by the plants due to external stresses.

In a collaborative research project, Dr Guy Barker (School of Life Sciences) and Professor Alexei Lapkin (School of Engineering) compared genetically similar plants from around the globe for their capacity to produce pharmaceutical compounds and how the environment affects our ability to extract the high value component.


  • Walley, P. G., Teakle, G. R., Moore, J. D., Allender, C. J., Pink, D. A. C., Buchanan-Wollaston, V., and Barker, G. (2012) ‘Developing genetic resources for pre-breeding in Brassica oleracea: an overview of the UK perspective’, Journal of Plant Biotechnology, 30: 62-68.
  • Feng Ji, Long Yan, Shi Lei, et al. (2012) ‘Characterization of metabolite quantitative trait loci and metabolic networks that control glucosinolate concentration in the seeds and leaves of Brassica napus’, New Phytologist 193 (1), 96-108
  • Tait, J. and Barker, G. (2011) ‘Global food security and the governance of modern biotechnologies’, EMBO Reports 12 (8), 763-768 [article]
  • Guy C. Barker, Tony R. Larson, Ian A. Graham, James R. Lynn and Graham J. King (2007) 'Novel Insights into Seed Fatty Acid Synthesis and Modification Pathways from Genetic Diversity and Quantitative Trait Loci Analysis of the Brassica C Genome', Plant Physiology, 144 1-16