My research provides new understanding in fundamental plant science that finds application in sustainable crops production. My current priority is to improve understanding of plant responses to solar ultraviolet radiation (UV: 320-400nm). This research was originally stimulated by concerns over stratospheric ozone depletion which, without effective controls on ozone depleting substances, would have massively increased the intensity of short wavelength solar UV (UV-B radiation) reaching the biosphere. However, I realised that plant responses to UV-B could be exploited in sustainable crop production, improving crop quality and contributing to pest and disease control. I have worked closely with industry to deliver new commercial approaches, for example new types of cladding plastics for protected crop production (working with Arid Agritech (http://www.aridagritec.com/ ) and bpi-Visqueen (http://www.bpivisqueenhort.com/ ). I continue to investigate how better understanding of responses to solar UV can lead to new approaches and technologies for sustainable horticulture.
Ozone depletion remains a significant environmental issue, despite the undoubted success of the Montreal Protocol, and I am co-chair (2010-) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) panel on the interactive effects of ozone depletion and climate change on health and the environment, which continues to provide up-to-date assessment of this topic for governments and policy makers (http://ozone.unep.org/).
As well as my UV research, I have a long-standing interest in the ecology of interactions between plants and their natural enemies, invertebrate herbivores or pathogenic microbes, in non-crop systems (e.g. Senecio vulgaris and its rust Puccinia lagenophorae; Rumex spp. and their Uromyces rumicis and herbivores (especially the beetle Gastrophysa viridula)). Those fundamental studies have led to a patented (WO 2008007100) new approach to crop control by treating seeds with jasmonates (a natural plant signalling compounds) to produce long-standing protection against pests (see http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/people/robertmr/impact.html and http://www.pbltechnology.com/cms.php?pageid=296 )