Biochemical imaging of compounds in plants

Bioactive compounds, such as pesticides, are vital in helping to protect crops and ensure good food yields. However, we also need to ensure their safety, as well as understand their fate – if you apply a compound to a plant, where does it end up? This project will use time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) to generate direct, label-free images of where pesticide compounds go in a plant tissue once they have been applied. In addition, the TOF-SIMS approach can also map changes in endogenous plant biochemistry. Data analysis is also a key part of this kind of mass spectrometric imaging, as powerful statistical approaches are needed to get the most out of the complex datasets that are generated.

This project will develop a novel validated analytical method to detect and analyse compounds (such as agrochemical) in biological matrices and try to solve the issues related to existing methodologies. These issues involve long and complex labelling procedures coupled with the fact that there is only a limited set of pesticides that are detectable with the existing methods.