5 February 2013

John Pickett - Plant metabolism exploited for sustainable food production by breeding, GM and companion cropping

Organised by:


SCI London

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Currently food production relies on chemical synthesis, although often inspired by natural processes. However, in the face of climate change and world population increase, more sustainable approaches will need to deliver such chemistry. This will be via the seed so as to avoid high energy intensive seasonal inputs to agriculture. The most powerful tools will involve secondary plant metabolism, but delivered for sustainable agriculture via the seed by accessing biodiversity and using new breeding technologies and, more importantly, genetic modification (GM). Use of organic chemistry for structure determination via bioassay (phenotyping) guided fractionation provides novel opportunities from plant metabolism, which will be essential in devising the completely new tools necessary for the sustainable intensification of agricultural production. Evidence of the value of such approaches will be discussed in terms of exploiting plant metabolites, for example as pheromones from the isoprenoid pathways, by delivery via new crops from natural diversity through to plant sources created by GM, including the induction of genes by external natural chemical elicitors
Venue and Contact



14-15 Belgrave Square,



Conference Team

+44 (0)20 7598 1561


Additional Info
This event is part of a series of Public Evening Lectures on Sustainability
The lectures are free to attend and open to the general public.

About the speaker

Professor John A. Pickett is originally an organic chemist (BSc 1967, PhD 1971, DSc 1993) who has gained worldwide recognition, with many honours and awards to his name, for his investigations into volatile natural products that affect the behaviour and development of animals and other organisms (semiochemicals). He is a world authority on semiochemicals in insect behaviour and plays a leading role in the move away from the traditional use of wide-spectrum pesticides to more precise control through compounds targeted against specific pests at critical stages in their life cycles. Recent practical successes include a programme for controlling stem borer pests and striga weeds in Africa, where thousands of subsistence farmers have already adopted systems for exploiting the natural product chemicals of certain companion crops. In 1976, John moved to Rothamsted Research to lead a team working on new methods of pest control. He headed the Department of Biological Chemistry there from 1984-2010, and now holds the first Michael Elliott Distinguished Research Fellowship at Rothamsted. As well as fulfilling this prestigious new role, he continues to lead research into the field of chemical ecology.