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Dr Eric Ober

Senior research scientist and crop physiologisDr Eric Obert

T: 01223 342463
E: Eric Ober

Research interests and expertise

Crop physiology and water relations, regulation of growth and grain development during water deficit, photosynthetic efficiency and hormonal regulation of root growth and osmotic adjustment. Research interests focus on understanding the physiological limitations to yield formation and the adaptations of plants to drought, with emphasis on wheat. Work is conducted in collaboration with plant breeders on development of phenotyping techniques and field measurement methods for yield potential, root activity, drought tolerance and water use efficiency.

Current/Recent Research Projects

  • Developing a Growth Guide for Oats (2013-14)
  • Drought tolerance in wheat and developing evaluation tools (FSOV/Arvalis, 2013-16)
  • Phenotyping root function in wheat (BBSRC CIRC [BB/J019461/1], 2012-)
  • Training Course in Advanced Sugar Beet Technology (BBSRC ]MTI-2011-7-1] 2013-16)
  • Assessment of genotypic differences in susceptibility to frost damage (BBRO, 2011-14)
  • Physiology-based selection methods for improving sugar beet productivity under water-limited conditions (BBRO, KWS, Strube, Südzucker, 2007-2011)
  • Impact of irrigation practices on Rijnsburger onion husbandry, quality and storability (2010-2013, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board/VCS)
  • Impact of new crop protection chemistry on abiotic stress tolerance in wheat (BASF, Syngenta, DuPont, Bayer, 2009-2012)
  • Adapting the Sugar Beet Growth Model to today’s conditions (BBRO, 2011-2012)
  • Benchmarking grower’s production to the potential yield set by the environment (BBRO, 2008-2010)
  • Adding value to variety trial data: a performance rating for wheat varieties for dry conditions. (HGCA 2012)Improving water use efficiency and drought tolerance in UK winter wheats (2007-2010, Defra-SA Link, HGCA, KWS, RAGT, Limagrain)


1990 - PhD Cornell Univ., USA (Crop Physiology, Plant Molecular Biology)
1986 - MS Cornell University, USA (Agronomy - Crop Physiology)
1984 - BSc Juniata College (Huntingdon, PA, USA), 1984 (Biology)

Research Experience

2013 - Programme Leader, crop physiology, NIAB
2011 - Senior Research Scientist, Plant Biology and Crop Sciences, Rothamsted
2008-11 - Research Group Leader, Crop Productivity, Broom’s Barn, Rothamsted
1998-08 - Crop Physiologist,  Broom’s Barn Research Centre, Rothamsted
1990-8 - Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Dr. Robert Sharp, U. Missouri
1986-90 - Ph.D. Student with Dr. Tim Setter, Cornell University
1984-6 - M.S. Student, Cornell/Univ. West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad


Hess T, Aldaya M, Fawell J, Franceschini H, Ober E, Schaub R, Schulze-Aurich J (2014) Understanding the impact of crop and food production on the water environment – using sugar as a model. J Sci Food Agric. 94:2-8.

Whalley WR, Ober ES, Jenkins M (2013) Measurement of the matric potential of soil water in the rhizosphere.  J Exp Bot 64: 3951-3963.

Dodd IC, Whalley WR, Ober ES, Parry MAJ (2011) Genetic and management approaches to boost UK wheat yields by ameliorating water deficits. J Exp Bot 62: 5241-5248.

Ober ES, Clark CJAC, Perry A (2010) Traits related to genotypic differences in effective water use and drought tolerance in UK winter wheat. Aspects of Applied Biology 105: 13-22.

Jaggard KW, Qi A, Ober ES (2010) Possible changes to arable crop yields by 2050. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 365: 2835-2851.

Jaggard KW, Qi A, Ober ES (2009) Capture and use of solar radiation, water, and nitrogen by sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.). Journal of Experimental Botany 60: 191-1925.

Rajabi A, Ober ES, Griffiths H (2009) Genotypic variation for water use efficiency, carbon isotope discrimination, and potential surrogate measures in sugar beet. Field Crops Research 112:172-181.

Rajabi A, Griffiths H, Ober ES, Kromdijk W, Pidgeon JD (2008) Genetic characteristics of water-use related traits in sugar beet. Euphytica 160:175-187.

Rajabi, A, Ranji Z, Griffiths H, Ober ES (2007) A preliminary study on genotypic differences in transcript abundance of drought-responsive genes in sugar beet. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences 10: 3599-3605.

Pidgeon JD, Ober ES, Qi A, Clark CJA, Royal A, Jaggard KW (2006) Using multi-environment sugar beet variety trials to screen for drought tolerance. Field Crops Research 95: 268-279.

Hajheidari M, Abdollahian-Noghabi M, Askari H, Heidari M, Sadeghian SY, Ober ES, Salekdeh GH (2005) Proteome analysis of sugar beet leaves under drought stress. Proteomics 5: 950-960.

Ober ES, Le Bloa M, Clark CJA, Royal A, Jaggard KW, Pidgeon JD. (2005) Evaluation of physiological traits as indirect selection criteria for drought tolerance in sugar beet. Field Crops Research 91: 231-249.

Ober, E.S., Clark, C.J.A., Le Bloa, M., Royal, A., Jaggard, K.W., Pidgeon, J.D. (2004). Assessing the genetic resources to improve drought tolerance in sugar beet: agronomic traits of diverse genotypes under droughted and irrigated conditions. Field Crops Research 90: 213-234.

Ober ES, Sharp RE (2003) Electrophysiological responses of maize roots to low water potentials: Relationship to growth and ABA accumulation. Journal of Experimental Botany 54: 813-824.

Ober ES, Luterbacher MC (2002) Genotypic variation for drought tolerance in Beta vulgaris. Annals Botany 89:917-924.

Verslues PE, Ober ES, Sharp RE. (1998) Oxygen relations and root growth at low water potentials. Impact of oxygen availability in polyethylene glycol solutions. Plant Physiology 116: 1403-12.

Ober ES, Sharp RE (1996) A microsensor for direct measurement of O2 partial pressure within plant tissues. Journal of Experimental Botany 47: 447-54.

Ober  ES, Sharp RE (1994) Proline accumulation in maize (Zea mays L.) primary roots at low water potentials. I. Requirement for increased levels of abscisic acid. Plant Physiology 105: 981-987.

Sharp RE, Ober ES (1992) Regulation of osmotic adjustment in maize roots growing at low water potentials. Current Topics in Plant Biochemistry and Plant Physiology 11: 155-167.

Ober ES, Setter TL (1992) Water deficit induces ABA accumulation in endosperm of maize viviparous mutants. Plant Physiology 98: 353-56.

Ober ES, Setter TL, Madison JT, Thompson JF, Shapiro, PS (1991) Influence of water deficit on maize endosperm development. Enzyme activities and RNA transcripts of starch and zein synthesis, abscisic acid and cell division.  Plant Physiology 97: 154-164.

Ober ES, Setter TL (1990) Timing of kernel development in water-stressed maize: water potentials and abscisic acid concentrations. Annals Botany 66: 665-672.

Book Chapters

Rajabi A, Ober ES, Norouzi P, Razavi K, Hemayati S, Sadeghian Y (2013) Molecular aspects of crop response to abiotic stress with an emphasis on drought and salinity. In, Molecular Approaches in Plant Abiotic Stress, RK Gaur, P Sharma, eds, CRC Press, pp 318-338.

Ober ES, Sharp RE (2013) Maintaining root growth in drying soil: a review of progress and gaps in understanding. In, Plant Roots: The Hidden Half, 4th Edition. A Eshel, T Beeckman, eds. CRC Press.

Rajabi A, Ober ES (2012) Breeding for Improved Drought Tolerance. In, Crop Production for Agricultural Improvement. M Ashraf, M Öztürk, MSA Ahmad, A Aksoy, eds. Springer Netherlands, pp 43-56. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-4116-4_3

Ober ES, Parry MAJ (2011) Drought and implications for nutrition. In, M Hawkesford, P Barraclough, eds, The Molecular Basis of Nutrient Use Efficiency in Crops, Wiley-Blackwell.

Ober ES, Sharp RE (2007) Regulation of root growth responses to water deficit. In, MA Jenks, PM Hasegawa, SM Jain (eds) Advances in molecular-breeding toward drought and salt tolerant crops. Springer.

Morillo-Velarde R, Ober ES (2006) Chapter 10. Water use and irrigation. In, AP Draycott, ed, Sugar Beet, Blackwell Scientific, pp 221-255.

Sharp RE, Ober ES, Wu Y (1993) Regulation of root growth at low water potentials. In, MB Jackson, CR Black, eds, Interacting Stresses on Plants in a Changing Climate, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp 557-72.

Industry Journals

Ober ES, Stevens M, Clark CJA (2011) Do sugar beet varieties differ in resilience to frost damage? British Sugar Beet Review 79:18-23.

Ober ES, Rajabi A (2011) Abiotic stress in sugar beet. Sugar Tech. 12: 294-298

Jaggard KW, Qi A, Milford GFJ, Clark CJA, Ober ES, Walters C, Burks E (2011) Determining the optimal population density of sugarbeet crops in England. International Sugar Journal 113: 114-119.

Ober ES (2010) Evaluation of differential rooting and water use characteristics of sugar beet genotypes under field drought conditions. Report of a Working Group on Beta and the World Beta Network, Bioversity International (CGIAR).

Ober ES, Pettit I, Clark CJAC (2010) A field trials database for data mining. British Sugar Beet Review 78: 41-43.

Ober ES (2007) Improving drought tolerance in sugar beet. In, Rothamsted Research Association Newsletter.

Ober ES, Asher M (2007) Physiological effects of fungicides on the growth of sugar beet. FO Lichts World Sugar Yearbook, Agra Informa, Ltd, F11-F15.

Asher MJC, Ober ES (2005) Fungicides for the control of foliar diseases in sugar beet: fungicidal and physiological effects. Aspects Applied Biology 76: 27-33.

Thornhill A, Ober ES (2004) Toughing it out: coping with harsh weather, now and in the future. British Sugar Beet Review 72: 28-31.

Ober ES (2004) Irrigation: old stories and new. British Sugar Beet Review 72: 52-54.

Ober ES,  Clark C, Jaggard KW (2004) Physiological effects of fungicides provide yield benefits. British Sugar Beet Review 72: 44-48.

Ober ES (2004) Kampf dem Trockenstress. Die Zuckerrübenzeitung, April, 2004, p 16.

Ober ES, Clark CJAC, Jaggard KW (2004) Progress towards improving the drought tolerance of sugarbeet. Zuckerindustrie 129: 101-104.

Ober ES, Clark CJAC, Jaggard KW (2003) Factors contributing to improved efficiency of the sugar beet crop during the autumn in the UK. Zuckerindustrie 128: 751-54.

Ober ES,  Clark, C, Le Bloa, M, Royal A (2002) Progress toward a drought tolerant sugar beet. British Sugar Beet Review 70: 17-20

Ober ES (2001) The search for drought tolerance in sugar beet. British Sugar Beet Review 69: 40-43.