At the Laboratory of Plant Physiology of Wageningen University we are interested in the mechanisms by which plants deal with their sometimes hostile environment. Throughout their lifecycle they employ a wide range of strategies to perceive and adapt to environmental signals and stresses. Our research aims to gain fundamental insight into several of these perception and adaptation mechanisms.
We study for example the conundrums faced by seeds early in the plant life cycle: should I germinate or remain in a rest-state for a while longer? We investigate the molecular basis that underpins the decision making at this stage. Once committed to establish itself, a plant continuously monitors its immediate environment and adapts its developmental processes to a large degree to these inputs. Aboveground this manifests for example in how quality and quantity of light inform the shape and activity of photosynthetic organs. We further focus on a major stress that is encountered and opposed belowground: an overabundance of salt.
In general, we study plant adaptation mechanisms with a range of techniques, including transcriptional profiling, live imaging, natural variation analysis and biochemistry of proteins and cell wall components. An important expertise within our lab is metabolomics; this is employed to study the diversity and flexibility in metabolite biogenesis showcased by plants, for example in the context of plant-insect interactions. For several of the plant-adaptation strategies that intrigue us, we also study how these can propel future crop improvements.