Staff Profile:Dr Luke Bell

Name:
Dr Luke Bell
Job Title:
Lecturer in Temperate Horticulture
Responsibilities:
  • Member of the Committee for Research Infrastructure
Areas of Interest:

My research interests encompass several diverse disciplines within the Agri-food sector. I am interested in genetic, climatic, and quality aspects of horticultural produce, and how this interacts with human nutrition and consumer preferences. I spent several years in industry as a plant breeder, and this is a challenging profession that attempts to synthesise all of these aspects for the purposes of crop improvement.

My research centres predominantly on crops of the Brassicales family of plants, such as rocket, cabbage, kale, mustard, and radish. These species contain compounds called glucosinolates, which are broken down by an enzyme called myrosinase when we eat them. This releases molecules called isothiocyanates, which often have a pungent, spicy, or sulfurous aroma and flavour. This gives these crops their distinctive sensory attributes, and is a reason why many people do not like to eat them. But isothiocyanates have also been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-neurodegenerative properties, and so I'm interested in improving not only the taste and flavour of Brassicales, but also their health-related benefits for humans. Incidents of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease are increasing, and nutritional improvement of crops is one way of improving people's diets to help alleviate the strain put on health services.

The production of glucosinolates and other metabolites by plants is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Another aspect to my research is understanding how gene expression differs in plants grown in different climates. Climate change will likely impact horticultural crop production significantly in the coming decades, and so I conduct experiments relating to carbon dioxide levels, temperature stress, waterlogging, and drought, to see how plants react and cope on a genetic and nutritional level. It is important to understand how these weather events will affect not only yields, but also the nutritional quality of our fruits and vegetables. This will allow for the development of new varieties of crops that can better withstand environmental extremes.

Research groups / Centres:
Publications:
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Qualifications:
Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Authority - (2019)
PhD in Food & Nutritional Science - University of Reading (2016)
Master of Science by Research in Plant & Environmental Science - University of Warwick (2011)
Diploma in Management & Leadership - Chartered Management Institute (2010)
Bachelor of Science in Ecology & Biology - University of East Anglia (2009)

Contact Details

Email:
luke.bell@reading.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0) 118 378 4523

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