This summer’s researcher in the spotlight is Åsa Lankinen, Associate professor in Plant Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at SLU Alnarp, and Coordinator for the Graduate School for Landscape Architecture, Horticulture and Crop Production Sciences. Åsa leads the fokus group on Low-risk substances in Plant Protection within Platform Plant Protection SLU and has a VR grant to work with plant defenses against diseases and pests.
-What is currently on top of your research agenda?
To start up new projects on red clover, faba bean and wild Solanum species. In red clover and faba bean I am mostly interested in the link between floral traits, pollination and seed yield. In wild Solanum dulcamara I will focus on plant-pathogen interactions and the microbiome in relation to natural selection on plant health in habitats with high and low diversity.
-Tell us about your latest publication?
I have a broad research interest and my latest publication is about a potential influence of sexual selection on divergence in floral traits related to mating system in the wild annual plant Collinsia heterophylla, which is native to California. I think that we should think more about that such selective forces can be important not only in animals but also in plants, which can have implications for our general understanding of plants.
-What led you into your particular field of research?
I have always liked plants and have been fascinated by all they can do despite not having a brain. When I moved from Lund University to SLU nine year ago I became more interested in how the basic knowledge of plants can help us find solutions to the challenges that we have in our society today.
-What are the implications of your research for the society?
The research on floral traits in particular in crops can have implications for plant breeding in insect-pollinated crops. The research on plant-pathogen interactions in wild species that are related to crops and grow in the agricultural landscape can be important for developing more sustainable food production.
-Finally, let´s say you got unlimited research funds; where would your research be five years from now?
I would love to combine basic research on ecology and evolutionary biology of plant biotic interactions with more applied research questions that can help us develop a more sustainable society. I would also like to improve the working environment of universities so that it would be more favourable to work together across fields, which I think is crucial for generating new knowledge.