Mark's research focuses on understanding and manipulating crop and environmental interactions to deliver improved resource use efficiency, crop productivity and quality of fresh produce. Understanding how crops respond and adapt to, and recover from, short- and longer-term abiotic stresses is fundamental to improving crop productivity in changeable environments. New water and fertiliser-saving irrigation strategies, derived from a detailed understanding of plant response to soil water stress and nutrient deficiency are being developed for several sectors, including soft and tree fruit. Enhancing yield and quality attributes such as flavour volatiles, bioactive content and shelf-life potential using novel deficit irrigation techniques is a key component of this work. The potential to use stress preconditioning to improve crop resilience to abiotic and biotic stresses is also being tested.
A major focus of his research is the development and integration of precision irrigation and fertigation systems into commercial production to help improve on-farm resource use efficiency, plant productivity and consistency of produce quality. In tandem, innovative imaging and sensor systems are being developed to ease the integration of these low-input approaches into commercial practice, so that consistency of cropping, plant productivity, and crop responses to abiotic and biotic stresses can be monitored and measured in real time to inform and improve on-farm decision making.
Improving consistency of yields and quality of large-scale and smallholder bean production in Kenya by precision management of soil, water and pathogens
Duration: October 2016–September 2019
Partners: Provenance Partners Ltd (lead), DuduTech Ltd, NIAB EMR, Vegpro Ltd, Weatherquest Ltd
Funding: IUK / DFID102647
Developing strategies to alleviate heat stress-induced flower abortion and prevent yield losses in fine and runner beans for commercial growers and for small-holder farmers in Kenya
Duration: August 2019–July 2022
Partners: Provenance Partners Ltd (lead), AGS Ltd, DuduTech Ltd, NIAB EMR, Vegpro Ltd, Weatherquest Ltd
Funding: IUK / DFID105317
BerryPredictor: Improving harvest forecasts, yield predictions and crop productivity by monitoring and optimising zonal phytoclimates in covered strawberry production
Duration: October 2019–September 2022
Partners: Berry Gardens Growers Ltd (lead), CropDesk Technologies Ltd, Environmental Monitoring Solutions Ltd, Saga Robotics Ltd, Weatherquest Ltd, NIAB EMR, University of Reading, University of Lincoln.
Use of stress pre-conditioning, novel sensors and AMF to improve crop management, marketable yields, stress resilience and environmental sustainability of raspberry production
Duration: August 2017–July 2020
Partners: Berry Gardens Growers Ltd (lead), Environmental Monitoring Solutions Ltd, NIAB EMR, Plantworks Ltd.
Funding: IUK 102640 / BBSRC BB/P00511X/1
Developing precision and deficit irrigation techniques to reduce reliance on PGRs and to optimise plant quality, uniformity and shelf-life potential in commercial protected pot and bedding plant production
Duration: July 2019–September 2022
Partners: NIAB (Lead), Bulrush Horticulture Ltd, HK Consultancy, Hills Plants Ltd, Neame Lea Ltd, Staplehurst Nurseries Ltd, Substrate Associates Ltd, Volmary Weatherquest Ltd, Woodlark Nurseries Ltd, 30MHz Ltd
Funding: AHDB PO 22
Increasing resilience to water-related risk in the UK fresh fruit & vegetable system
Duration: Jan 2019–Dec 2019
Partners: Cranfield University (Lead), Oxford, ECI, University of East Anglia, NIAB EMR, INR
Funding: BBSRC BB/N020499/1
Else, M.A., Taylor, J.M., Young, S., Atkinson, C.J. (2018). The effect of the graft union on hormonal and ionic signalling between rootstocks and scions of grafted apple (Malus pumila L. Mill.), Environmental and Experimental Botany 156, 325-336
Trejo, C., Else, M.A., Atkinson, C.J. (2018). Responses of seminal wheat seedling roots to soil water deficits. Journal of Plant Physiology 223, 105-11.
Morris, J., Else, M.A., El Chami. D., Daccache, A,, Rey, D., Knox, J. (2017). Essential irrigation and the economics of strawberries in a temperate climate. Agricultural Water Management 194:90-99.