MScR project: Nathanael Tan

Hail storms can cause considerable damage to crops and horticultural plants; however, not all plants are equally affected. Identifying and understanding the adaptations that enable some plants to survive hail impacts relatively unscathed will be key to breeding crops that are fit for the future. This project aims to 1) characterize and quantify leaf damage from simulated hail impacts in a range of crop plants, and 2) identify leaf traits and impact responses that confer an increased damage resistance. The project builds on Anne‘s Phd on adaptations of leaves to deal with impacts more generally. It also makes use of the ingenious hail simulator that BSc student Janine Drube from the Bremen University of Applied Sciences built during her semester abroad in our lab last year:

Janine trying out the new hail simulator she built for the lab

Nathanael, who joins us in September 2022 as a BCAI Lady Emily Smyth scholar – that’s the competitive studentship that already funded Oona when she did her MScR with us – and Janine, who is coming back to do her BSc thesis project with us, will use the hail simulator to establish a framework to classify and quantify hail damage, and try to solve the puzzling question: what makes a good hail-resistant leaf? Understanding the biomechanical underpinnings of hail resistance in plants will not only help to inform crop breeders of traits to select for in order to produce more resilient crop plants, but also provide inspiration for architects and engineers aiming to construct buildings that are better equipped to withstand hailstorms and other extreme weather events.