From basic plant stress biology to future crops.
Regulatory networks in stress-induced plant ageing (Plant Age)

This project aims to reveal the molecular mechanisms behind leaf senescence.

Stress-induced plant ageing can significantly deteriorate the quality of vegetables and cause significant losses in the food chain, but the underlying biochemical processes remain poorly understood. We aim to fill this knowledge gap and uncover the molecular mechanisms behind stress-induced ageing in model and crop species.

We take advantage of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, non-targeted and targeted proteomics, biochemical analysis and metabolomics to dissect the basic molecular mechanisms of ageing. The new understanding is tested in different varieties of kale (Brassica oleracea convar acephala), which is a nutritious leafy vegetable and a relevant crop species. The results of this project will help improving the cultivation practices and post-harvest quality of leafy greens.

Funded by: Academy of Finland and University of Helsinki

Duration: 2021-2025

Personalize your food

This project aims for flavor tailoring and improved domestic indoor cultivation.

The increasing interest towards healthy lifestyle and plant-based diet has posed the need for indoor gardening of vegetables and herbs in cities. The availability of cost-efficient LED lamps has revolutionized indoor horticulture, and application of different colors of light provides the means for manipulating the growth, nutritional quality and taste of greens. This project seeks to improve indoor gardening technologies by elucidating the molecular players behind light-dependent production of biomass and health-promoting compounds in edible plants. The goal is to provide solutions for user-friendly growth of greens by introducing light recipes, which enable tailoring of the size, shape and chemical composition of leafy vegetables. On the longer run, the anticipated outcome can be scaled to industrial vertical farming systems to improve the prospects for local and sustainable consumption of plant-based food.

The project is a collaboration between Meike Burow, University of Copenhagen (PI) and Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi (co-PI).

Funded by: Novo Nordisk Foundation and University of Helsinki

Duration: 2021-2024

Photonics, flavor tailoring and urban farming of fresh vegetables and herbs

This research responds to the current megatrend of urbanization and the increasing need for new solutions to increase the availability of tasty and nutritious plant-based food. We aim to improve the scientific knowhow on plant light signaling and apply this basic scientific knowledge in indoor farming.

Indoor cultivation offers technologies for sustainable and safe urban food production. Modern hydroponic systems can operate with minimal water consumption, and the hyperlocal production reduces the need for transportation and helps reduce food waste and pollution. Additionally, the plants are protected from plant diseases, limiting the need to use pesticides. However, scaling to vertical farming is limited by incomplete understanding of how plant growth and chemical composition can be optimized for profitable large scale cultivation. Therefore, we combine expertise in plant biology, food and nutrition and consumer research to develop new solutions to indoor cultivation.

The project is a multidisciplinary collaboration between Mari Sandell, Mari Lehtonen, Paula Elomaa and Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki.

Funded by: University of Helsinki and Maiju ja Yrjö Rikalan puutarhasäätiö.

Duration: 2021-

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