Prof. Rod Scott

Prof. Rod Scott

Current Research
My lab researches both the molecular genetics of higher plant reproduction, particularly seed development, and algal biotechnology.

Seeds and Reproduction
Seeds are the most important agricultural product, accounting for at least 70% of the world’s food supply (either directly or as animal feed). With rising population and diminishing agricultural land, it is increasingly urgent to improve crop yields. Increasing seed size and number in seed crop species are important routes to achieving this goal. Our fundamental insights are identifying genes that regulate these traits, building these into biotechnological approaches to deliver increased yield.

Novel plant glycoside hydrolases for bioethanol production
Successful plant reproduction is essential for food production. The stationary lifestyle of plants means that mobile pollen is vital for fertilisation. Since plant cells are usually firmly fused together in tissues, pollen production requires radical modification of normal cell division. This is achieved by replacing cellulose with callose as the cell wall material laid-down after meiosis forms the young pollen grains. Enzymes produced by the surrounding anther tissues then dissolve the callose, releasing the pollen. We are identifing the genes encoding these enzymes for evaluation in the creation of auto-digesting transgenic plants for bioethanol production.

Algae biotechnology
Single-celled, or microalgae, are a diverse group of species with many potential commercial applications including the production of biofuels, pigments, protein for animal feed and industrial feedstocks. Their large-scale culture could also help capture harmful CO2 to combat climate change and to clean wastewater reducing environmental damage from sewage treatment.

Before algae can realize this potential a number of technical challenges must be overcome to bring down the cost of production to levels competitive with existing and well-established alternatives. These include thermo-tolerance, increased photosynthetic efficiency and reduced harvesting and product recovery costs. Several research projects in the lab focus on addressing these challenges.