Aarhus Universitets segl

Using volatiles to protect plants against frost damage

Main subject area: Using natural plant compounds to protect crops against climate stress

Short project description

Plants produce a wide range of secondary compounds to protect against both biotic (e.g. herbivory, pathogens) and abiotic (temperature, drought) stress. Monoterpenes are naturally occurring plant volatiles produced in large quantities by aromatic plants. Studies have found that these compounds can act as protection against heat and frost stress. Due to their volatile nature these compounds can diffuse into cell of plants that do not themselves produce these. Pilot studies found that plants fumigated by specific monoterpenes increased their frost tolerance. This offers a potential novel way of crop protection against climate stress, and in Denmark particularly damage caused by spring frost.

The project involves controlled lab tests of frost damage to plant leaves and flowers fumigated with different monoterpenes combined with assays on whole plants in the greenhouse, and in field trials.  Mechanisms of how natural plant volatiles may protect other plants against frost includes assessing concentrations of monoterpenes and effect on timing and duration of protections.

There is possibility to test different crop species (optional for student). The student has the possibility to obtain skills in assessing plant cell damage from frost using electrolyte leakage and staining methods, in analyzing photosynthetic performance of plants using gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence analysis to determine damage vs protection of plant tissue. It is also possible to obtain skills in determining the lipid and carbohydrate content using LC-MS and anion exchange chromatography.

The work performed may have potential to lead to a scientific manuscript.

Department and supervisor

Project start

Any time

Physical location of project and students work

Combined lab work at Ecoscience and work in green houses at Agro Food Park. Potentially also possibility for trials at AU Food’s Auning field site.

Extent and type of project

The project will be an experimental thesis, and can be of both 45 and 60 ECTS (optional) in which the student is responsible for collection and analysis of his/her own original data.

Additional information

Project start is optional, but if the student would like to include field trials, these will be most relevant to perform in the early spring and in this case performing controlled tests in the lab and greenhouse to obtain the relevant knowledge assayed in field trials should be carried out beforehand.