October 2021 – september 2025
My project is manipulating stomatal density to improve CO2 uptake in strawberry. The overarching goal of my project is to improve carbon assimilation to increase plant biomass and fruit yield. I will produce strawberry lines with greater stomatal density using gene-editing technologies, such as CRISPR/Cas9 and RNA interference. My primary targets for overexpression and knockdown will be the Epidermal patterning factor (EPF) family of genes, which are instrumental in stomatal differentiation. Other genes most specifically related to stomatal control and regulation of the aperture will be explored for their potential additive benefits to plant growth. The transgenic lines will be assessed to find the ones with the highest photosynthesis, biomass and most importantly fruit yield. The effects of altering stomatal density on the fruit quality must be analysed to ensure fruit quality and measure any changes to the nutritional profile of the fruit.