About the Lab

Our lab focuses on critical research of the mechanisms of photosynthetic and stomatal variation. To do so we build equipment, or work with the critical mass* of physiologists at UC Davis.  Being at a Land Grant Institution we are dedicated to the inclusion of agronomic outcomes for our basic research. What stomatal or hydraulic characteristics lead to reduced crop water use? How can these traits be screened for, and what selection strategies are useful? Do cellular or organ level differences scale up to whole-plant, canopy or crop processes? These type of transformative research questions are facilitated by the proximity of a large agricultural experiment station, community of cooperative extension specialists and diverse agricultural systems.

Please feel free to contact us about our research, collaborations and prospective students.

* The number of researchers at UCD is at a critical mass enabling broad and stimulating interactions (the researchers aren’t too critical or massive).


So what is it that we aim to do?

CO2 uptake by plants (photosynthesis) and leaf water loss (controlled by the stomata) underpin the agricultural water use efficiency tradeoff.  Thus research addressing the mechanisms by which leaf photosynthesis and stomata respond to the environment can form the basis for understanding the limits to changing WUE in crops. It is our goal to:

  1. establish a physiological WUE envelope within which it is practical to manipulate crop water use and productivity,
  2. develop a basic understanding of physiology underlying photosynthesis and water loss,
  3. investigate the physiological consequences of changing WUE,
  4. perform scaling exercises to verify that leaf or plant physiology affects whole plant and canopy processes, and
  5. establish practical screening or management for variation in the components of WUE.

The possibilities for changing whole crop WUE are relatively limited by the physiological tradeoff between photosynthesis and transpiration. Our contention is that the goal of improving WUE will only be practically met through concerted efforts in two fields: reducing stomatal water loss combined with increases in photosynthetic capacity. However these are only useful if done with field-scale validations testing whether micro-level processes scale up to the crop-level. This goal will only be possible through a better understanding of basic photosynthetic and stomatal physiology.