An English Adventure Part 2

An automated system for gravimetrically measuring plant water use at the National Plant Phenomics Center in Aberystwyth, Wales

Cyfarchion o Gymru! Greetings from Wales! This week’s adventure in the United Kingdom took me to Aberystwyth on the western coast of Wales to harvest an experiment being performed on wheat at the National Plant Phenomics Centre (NPPC) within the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University. The center specializes in phenomics; that is, the study of how the genes of a plant and the environment where the plant is growing interact to produce its specific characteristics, or phenotype. At the center, they have developed a state-of-the-art, fully automated system for phenotyping a variety of organisms, for example, the wheat in this experiment.

Wheat experiment shortly before harvest at the National Plant Phenomics Center in Aberystwyth, Wales

The major objective of the experiment that we participated in this week at the NPPC is to determine the effect of film antitranspirants on the water use, grain yield and development of two varieties of wheat. Using the NPPC facilities, like the automated gravimetric water use system shown in the picture above, researchers at IBERS and Harper Adams University are trying to get a better picture of how management strategies like the application of antitranspirants can improve plant water use under drought conditions. Increasingly, drought is a problem that threatens crop production in many areas of the globe, so any results from this study may contribute to improvement in managing key crop species under drought around the world. (Learn more about what’s going on at the NPPC here)

Love locks at Albert Dock, Liverpool

On the weekend following our trip to Wales, I decided to take a day-trip to Liverpool, which is only an hour by train from the HAU area. Liverpool tends to get a bit of a bad reputation amongst those that travel and consequently many of my British colleagues questioned why I would choose the city for a visit. The port was once on the cutting edge of shipping and trade when it was built in 1864, but the world sort of left it behind as technology advanced. By the time the docks in Liverpool were requisitioned by the British navy during WWII, the once bustling city was largely forgotten and the damage from bombing during the war seemed to seal the city’s fate.

The contrast between historic and modern architecture at Albert Dock in Liverpool

However, in the last few decades, Liverpool has attempted a revival to some success. The Maritime Museum, which occupies one of the original warehouses at Albert Dock, chronicles shipping and trade through the ages and includes the often-untold story of the connection between the city and the Titanic. Fans of music from the 1960s have also adopted the city as a site of pilgrimage because of its connection to The Beatles. I particularly enjoyed spending time at the Albert Dock, imagining walking in the footsteps of the Fab Four. All in all, I found the city to be a fascinating combination of the historic and modern that was well worth the visit… even if I did have “Penny Lane” stuck in my head for a week afterwards!

Kelly Racette