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Vine research at EMR

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Dr Julien Lecourt has joined East Malling Research (EMR), as part of plans to revitalise the site and become recognised as the pre-eminent research institute in the UK for perennial and clonally propagated crops.

Julien Lecourt was appointed to East Malling Research last Autumn and is working as a tree and new crop Physiologist of Resource Efficiency for Crop Production in Dr Mark Else’s group. Julien recently completed his PhD at the Institute of Wine and Vine Research at the University of Bordeaux, France, in plant physiology. His current work at EMR involves developing a research programme on grapevines and developing research on the optimisation of light interception in orchards.

Julien’s route into plant physiology began when studying the effects of root architecture on nitrogen uptake in oilseed rape as an undergraduate at the University of Normandy. After establishing a comprehensive background in classical plant physiology he felt that molecular biology offered interesting new tools to study the environment. He pursued these interests by undertaking a Masters course at the University of Caen, which taught the latest techniques being put to use across all biological disciplines, not just in plant physiology but also in human biology and neuroscience. During his Masters degree, Julien developed research on a family of enzymes involved in carbon storage mobilization in ryegrass. He discovered and cloned a new enzyme and studied the regulation of all the genes of this family. This work gave Julien practical experience in molecular biology using an extended range of molecular biology methods.

Julien’s doctoral position at the University of Bordeaux provided an opportunity not only to extend his knowledge of plant physiology, but also to acquire expertise in viticulture and winemaking. His research focused on understanding how the rootstock genotype affects mineral and especially nitrogen nutrition in grapevines and his PhD has been awarded by the French National Society of Horticulture.

The aim of Julien’s research at EMR is to study how pre-harvest factors and management affect plant physiology and post-harvest fruit quality. His key research area is the development of new growing systems in the orchard by studying how canopy structure affects light interception and resource partitioning in trees. He will also develop research on new crops, especially on the physiology of grapevines. His aim with grapevines, including table grapes, is to advance viticulture for the unique UK environment. The quality of UK wines has dramatically increased in the last decade, but EMR proposes to go further, by developing optimised viticulture for the production of the finest quality wines and to increase winemakers’ profit margins.

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