Dr Paul Robson

Dr Paul Robson

Senior Research Scientist

Contact Details


I graduated in Microbiology and Virology and received a doctorate in molecular microbiology from Warwick University working with Professor David Hodgson. My PhD was studying the mechanism of light induction from a promoter controlling carotenogenesis in Myxobacteria.
Since then I have worked in plant molecular biology and physiology, developing interests in the molecular mechanisms determining plant physiology and morphology. This included 7 years working with Professor Harry Smith at Leicester University studying photomorphogenesis and the biotechnological application of phytochrome. After a move to Aberystwyth I worked at IGER studying senescence and the induction of a stay-green phenotype in Maize (with Professor Howard Thomas); molecular determinants of apomixis (with Professor Philip Morris) and I now lead a project on Miscanthus Molecular Genetics and Crop Performance (with ).



The aim of my research is to understand the molecular and physiological control of morphologies in Miscanthus that contribute to efficient resource capture and utilisation and to develop molecular tools to enable efficient breeding strategies in Miscanthus. The work will provide fundamental insight into the genetic and environmental interactions determining Miscanthus development and how morphological change and physiological processes contribute to the capture of light and water and to nutrient use efficiency. This project will also develop genetic resources for Miscanthus including a genetic map and will test the syntenic relationship with other crops.

Research highlights include the following objectives:

  1. To determine variation in morphologies relevant to resource capture including, plant architecture, early season establishment, leaf area and senescence and to test the impact that these morphological changes have on resource capture and yield.
  2. To determine the morphological and physiological responses of Miscanthus to environmental signals in plot-based and controlled environment studies focusing initially on light as a resource and signal to reveal novel insights into photomorphogenesis in grass species.
  3. To develop markers and a genetic map for Miscanthus and to use markers for association and QTL mapping of morphological and compositional traits in Miscanthus.
  4. To determine the impact of senescence on crop quality, nutrient use efficiency and crop yield.
  5. To determine the extent of synteny with other crop species such as Sorghum and maize.
  6. To develop innovative phenotyping analyses including the use of high-throughput phenomics studies.
  7. To characterise gene expression in Miscanthus from senescence associated genes and abiotic stress genes.



Davey, C., Robson, P., Hawkins, S., Farrar, K., Clifton-Brown, J., Donnison, I., Slavov, G. 2017. Genetic relationships between spring emergence, canopy phenology and biomass yield increase the accuracy of genomic prediction in Miscanthus. Journal of Experimental Botany 10.1093/jxb/erx339

Wildhagen, H., Paul, S., Allwright, M., Smith, H., Malinowska, M., Schnabel, S., Paulo, J., Cattonaro, F., Vendramin, V., Scalabrin, S., Janz, D., Douthe, C., Brendel, O., Buré, C., Cohen, D., Hummel, I., Le Thiec, D., van Euewijk, F., Keurentjes, J., Flexas, J., Morgante, M., Robson, P., Bogeat-Triboulot, M., Taylor, G., Polle, A. 2017. Genes and gene clusters related to genotype and drought induced variation in saccharification potential, lignin content, and wood anatomical traits in Populus nigra: Saccharification, Wood Anatomy and Gene Clusters. Tree Physiology 10.1093/treephys/tpx054 Cadair

Jensen, E., Robson, P., Farrar, K., Thomas Jones, S., Clifton-Brown, J., Payne, R., Donnison, I. 2017. Towards Miscanthus combustion quality improvement: the role of flowering and senescence. GCB Bioenergy 9 (5) pp. 891-908. 10.1111/gcbb.12391 Cadair

McCalmont, J., Hastings, A., Mcnamara, N., Richter, G.M., Robson, P., Donnison, I., Clifton-Brown, J. 2017. Environmental costs and benefits of growing Miscanthus for bioenergy in the UK. GCB Bioenergy 9 (3) pp. 489-507. 10.1111/gcbb.12294 Cadair

Clifton-Brown, J., Hastings, A., Mos, M., McCalmont, J., Ashman, C., Awty-Carroll, D., Cerazy, J., Chiang, Y., Cosentino, S., Cracroft-Eley, W., Scurlock, J., Donnison, I., Glover, C., Golab, I., Greef, J., Gwyn, J., Harding, G., Hayes, C., Helios, W., Hsu, T.W., Huang, L., Jezownski, S., Kim, D., Kiesel, A., Kotecki, A., Krzyzak, J., Lewandowski, I., Lim, S.H., Liu, J., Loosely, M., Meyer, H., Murphy-Bokern, D., Nelson, W., Pogrzeba, M., Robinson, G., Robson, P., Rogers, C., Scalici, G., Schuele, H., Shafiei, R., Shevchuk, O., Schwarz, K., Squance, M., Swaller, T., Thornton, J., Truckses, T., Botnari, V., Vizir, I., Wagner, M., Warren, R., Webster, R., Yamada, T., Youell, S., Xi, Q., Zong, J., Flavell, R. 2017. Progress in upscaling Miscanthus biomass production for the European bio-economy with seed-based hybrids. GCB Bioenergy 9 (1) pp. 6-17. 10.1111/gcbb.12357 Cadair

Malinowska, M., Donnison, I., Robson, P. 2017. Phenomics analysis of drought responses in Miscanthus collected from different geographical locations. GCB Bioenergy 9 (1) pp. 78-91. 10.1111/gcbb.12350 Cadair


Wootton-Beard, P., Xing, Y., Durai Prabhakaran, R.T., Robson, P., Bosch, M., Thornton, J., Ormondroyd, G., Jones, P., Donnison, I. 2016. Review: Improving the impact of plant science on urban planning and design. Buildings 6 (4) 10.3390/buildings6040048 Cadair

Stavridou, E., Webster, R., Robson, P. 2016. The impact of soil salinity on the yield, composition and physiology of the bioenergy grass Miscanthus x giganteus. GCB Bioenergy 9 (1) pp. 92-104. 10.1111/gcbb.12351 Cadair

Davey, C., Nipper, R., Robson, P., Farrar, K., Clifton-Brown, J., Jensen, E., Donnison, I., Slavov, G. 2016. Selection and Genome-Wide Prediction of Phenology and Biomass Yield in Miscanthus. Plant and Animal Genome Conference XXIV. Cadair


Hopkins, A., Collins, R., Fraser, M., King, V.R., Lloyd, D., Moorby, J., Robson, P. 2014. EGF at 50: The Future of European Grasslands: Proceedings of the 25th General Meeting of the European Grassland Federation. Aberystwyth, Wales 7-11 September 2014. Prifysgol Aberystwyth | Aberystwyth University Other Cadair

Parveen, I., Wilson, T., Threadgill, M.D., Luyten, J., Roberts, R.E., Robson, P.R., Hauck, B.D., Donnison, I.S., Winters, A.L. 2014. Screening for potential co-products in a Miscanthus sinensis mapping family by liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry detection. Phytochemistry 105 pp. 186-196. 10.1016/j.phytochem.2014.05.003 Cadair

Ings, J., Mur, L.A.J., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Bosch, M., Robson, P.R. 2014. Revealing the Molecular and Physiological Responses to Water Deficit in the Bioenergy Crop Miscanthus x giganteus. Plant Biology Europe - FESPB/EPSO 2014 Congress. Other Cadair

Slavov, G.T., Nipper, R., Robson, P., Farrar, K., Allison, G.G., Bosch, M., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I.S., Jensen, E. 2014. Genome-wide association studies and prediction of 17 traits related to phenology, biomass and cell wall composition in the energy grass Miscanthus sinensis. New Phytologist 201 (4) pp. 1227-1239. 10.1111/nph.12621 Cadair

Slavov, G.T., Nipper, R., Robson, P.R., Farrar, K., Allison, G.G., Bosch, M., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I.S., Jensen, E.F. 2014. Genome-wide association studies and prediction of traits related to phenology, biomass and cell wall composition in Miscanthus sinensis. Plant & Animal Genome XXII Conference. Other Cadair

Clifton-Brown, J.C., Purdy, S.J., Hayes, C.M., Ashman, C.R., Jones, L.E., Farrar, K., Huang, L.S., Gallagher, J.A., Glover, C.M., Hinton Jones, M.E., Jensen, E.F., Loosley, R.M., Maddison, A.L., McCalmont, J.P., Nunn, C., Robson, P.R., Slavov, G.T., Warren, R.D., Webster, R.J., Youell, S.J., Donnison, I.S., Davey, C.L., Jones, C.M., Barraclough, T., Castle, M., Cunniff, J., Cracroft-Eley, W., Greef, J.M., Hastings, A., Harding, G., Lewandowski, I., Meyer, H., Mos, M., Nelson, W., Richter, G., Rodgers, C., Schwarze, K., Squance, M., Swaller, T., Shield, I., Xi, Q., Karp, A., Flavell, R. 2014. Recent advances in Miscanthus science and breeding. International Bioenergy Conference 2014. Cadair


Slavov, G.T., Robson, P.R., Jensen, E.F., Farrar, K., Ma, X., Swaller, T., Flavell, R., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I.S. 2013. A population genomics approach to accelerating the domestication of the energy grass Miscanthus. Plant & Animal XXI Conference. Other Cadair

Jensen, E., Robson, P., Norris, J., Cookson, A., Farrar, K., Donnison, I., Clifton-Brown, J. 2013. Flowering induction in the bioenergy grass Miscanthus sacchariflorus is a quantitative short-day response, whilst delayed flowering under long days increases biomass accumulation. Journal of Experimental Biology 64 (2) pp. 541-552. 10.1093/jxb/ers346 Cadair

Robson, P.R.H., Farrar, K., Gay, A.P., Jensen, E.F., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I.S. 2013. Variation in canopy duration in the perennial biofuel crop Miscanthus reveals complex associations with yield: Canopy duration and yield in Miscanthus. Journal of Experimental Biology 64 (8) pp. 2373-2383. 10.1093/jxb/ert104 Cadair

Robson, P., Jensen, E., Hawkins, S., White, S.R., Kenobi, K., Clifton-Brown, J., Donnison, I., Farrar, K. 2013. Accelerating the domestication of a bioenergy crop: identifying and modelling morphological targets for sustainable yield increase in Miscanthus. Journal of Experimental Botany 64 (14) pp. 4143-4155. 10.1093/jxb/ert225 Cadair

Ings, J., Mur, L.A.J., Robson, P.R.H., Bosch, M. 2013. Physiological and growth responses to water deficit in the bioenergy crop Miscanthus x giganteus. Frontiers in Plant Science 4 pp. 468. 10.3389/fpls.2013.00468 Cadair

Slavov, G., Robson, P., Jensen, E., Hodgson, E., Farrar, K., Allison, G., Hawkins, S., Thomas-Jones, S., Ma, X., Huang, L., Swaller, T., Flavell, R., Clifton-Brown, J., Donnison, I. 2013. Contrasting geographic patterns of genetic variation for molecular markers vs. phenotypic traits in the energy grass Miscanthus sinensis. GCB Bioenergy 5 (5) pp. 562-571. 10.1111/gcbb.12025 Cadair

Zatta, A., Clifton-Brown, J., Robson, P., Hastings, A., Monti, A. 2013. Land use change from C3 grassland to C4 Miscanthus: effects on soil carbon content and estimated mitigation benefit after six years. GCB Bioenergy 6 (4) pp. 360-370. 10.1111/gcbb.12054 Cadair

Clifton-Brown, J.C., Robson, P.R., Davey, C.L., Farrar, K., Hayes, C.M., Huang, L.S., Jensen, E.F., Jones, L.E., Hinton Jones, M.E., Maddison, A.L., Meyer, H., Norris, J.A., Purdy, S.J., Rodgers, C., Schwarz, K., Salvatore, C., Slavov, G.T., Valentine, J., Webster, R.J., Youell, S.J., Donnison, I.S. 2013. Breeding Miscanthus for bioenergy. In M. C. Saha., H. S. Bhandari., J. H. Bouton. (eds) Biomass Crops: Breeding and Genetics. Wiley 10.1002/9781118609477.ch5 Cadair

Mos, M., Banks, S., Nowakowski, d., Robson, P.R., Bridgwater, A., Donnison, I.S. 2013. Impact of Miscanthus x giganteus senescence times on fast pyrolysis bio-oil quality. Bioresource Technology 129 pp. 335-342. 10.1016/j.biortech.2012.11.069 Cadair


Valentine, J., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Hastings, A., Robson, P.R., Allison, G.G., Smith, P. 2012. Food vs. fuel: the use of land for lignocellulosic 'next generation' energy crops that minimize competition with primary food production. GCB Bioenergy 4 (1) pp. 1-19. 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2011.01111.x Cadair


Robson, P., Mos, M., Dee, H., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I. 2011. Improving bioenergy crop yield and quality through manipulating senescence. Aspects of Applied Biology 112 pp. 323-328. Cadair

Clifton-Brown, J., Robson, P., Sanderson, R., Hastings, A., Valentine, J., Donnison, I. 2011. Thermal requirements for seed germination in Miscanthus compared with Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinaceae), Maize (Zea mays) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). GCB Bioenergy 3 (5) pp. 375-386. 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2011.01094.x Cadair

Jensen, E.F., Loosley, M., Farrar, K., Robson, P.R., Norris, J., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I.S. 2011. Impact of photoperiod and ambient temperature on days to flowering in Miscanthus species. 2010 Society of Experimental Biology Annual Main Meeting. Cadair

Robson, P.R., Mos, M., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I.S. 2011. Phenotypic variation in senescence in Miscanthus: Towards optimising biomass quality and quantity. Bioenergy Research 5 (1) pp. 95-105. 10.1007/s12155-011-9118-6 Cadair

Robson, P.R.H., Kelly, R., Jensen, E.F., Giddings, G.D., Leitch, M., Davey, C., Gay, A.P., Jenkins, G., Thomas, H., Donnison, I.S. 2011. A flexible quantitative methodology for the analysis of gene-flow between conventionally bred maize populations using microsatellite markers. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 122 (4) pp. 819-829. 10.1007/s00122-010-1489-0 Cadair

Bosch, M., Roberts, L.A., Dalton, S.J., Robson, P.R., Donnison, I.S., Nielsen, K., Mur, L.A.J. 2011. Brachypodium as a model for studying traits relevant for the development of bioenergy grasses. 1st European Brachypodium Workshop. Cadair

Dalton, S.J., Bosch, M., Robson, P.R., Donnison, I.S. 2011. Neomycin phosphotransferase gene (nptII) as a selectable marker for Brachypodium BD21. 1st European Brachypodium Workshop. Other Cadair

Jensen, E.F., Jones, S.T., Farrar, K., Robson, P.R., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I.S. 2011. Flowering time in Miscanthus. Plant and Animal Genome XIX Conference . Other Cadair

Robson, P.R., Kelly, R., Jensen, E.F., Davey, C., Gay, A.P., Thomas, H., Donnison, I.S., Leitch, M., Warren, J.M., Giddings, G.D., Jenkins, G. 2011. Factors affecting rates of cross-pollination in maize growing under typical UK conditions RG0124. DEFRA Report 2011 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Cadair

Robson, P., Jensen, E., Hodgson, E., Farrar, K., Slavov, G., Allison, G., Hawkins, S., Jones, S., Valentine, J., Clifton-Brown, J., Donnison, I. 2011. Harnessing natural variation in phenotypic and chemotypic traits in Miscanthus for breeding improved bioenergy crops: A review of long term results from perennial energy cropping work at IBERS. Aspects of Applied Biology 112 Cadair


Farrar, K., Robson, P.R., Jensen, E.F., Hawkins, S., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I.S. 2010. Manipulation of plant architecture to optimise biomass yield in Miscanthus. Plant and Animal Genome XVIII Conference. Cadair

Allison, G., Morris, C., Gill, S., Lister, S., Clifton-Brown, J., Jensen, E., Robson, P., Adams, J., Gallagher, J., Donnison, I. 2010. Aligning the chemical composition of new Miscanthus varieties to the requirements of conversion processes. Sixth International Conference on Rnewable Resource and Biorefineries. Cadair


Armstead, I.P., Huang, L.S., Ravagnani, A., Robson, P.R., Ougham, H.J. 2009. Bioinformatics in the orphan crops. Briefings in Bioinformatics 10 (6) pp. 645-653. 10.1093/bib/bbp036 Cadair

Mos, M., Robson, P.R., Donnison, I.S. 2009. Cellular and molecular characterisation of senescence in the energy grass. Plant Sciences Wales. Cadair

Donnison, I.S., Farrar, K., Allison, G.G., Hodgson, E., Adams, J.M., Hatch, R., Gallagher, J.A., Robson, P.R., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Morris, P. 2009. Functional genomics of forage and bioenergy quality traits in the grasses. In T. Yamada., G. Spangenberg. (eds) Molecular Breeding of Forage Turf: Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on the Molecular Breeding of Forage Turf. 5th International Symposium on the Molecular Breeding of Forage and Turf. pp. 111-123. Cadair Other

Farrar, K., Hawkins, S., Jensen, E., Robson, P., Sanderson, R., Clifton-Brown, J., Donnison, I. 2009. Exploiting model species to increase biomass yield in energy crops. 20th International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (IACR). Cadair


Donnison, I.S., Farrar, K., Robson, P.R., Clifton-Brown, J.C.Smith, S.P., Spikes, K.J. 2008. Bioenergy and biorenewables from grasses. Other Cadair

Jensen, E.F., Jones, S.T., Farrar, K., Robson, P.R.H., Clifton-Brown, J.C., Donnison, I.S. 2008. Optimising flowering time in Miscanthus for improved biomass yield and quality. GARNet/SEB Joint Plant Symposium, Vet School, Sutton Bonington Campus, University of Nottingham. Cadair

Clifton-Brown, J.C., Robson, P.R., Allison, G.G., Lister, S.J., Sanderson, R., Morris, C., Hodgson, E., Farrar, K., Hawkins, S., Jensen, E.F., Jones, S.T., Huang, L., Roberts, P.C., Youell, S.J., Jones, B.R., Wright, A., Valentine, J., Donnison, I.S.Booth, E., Green, M., Karp, A., Shield, I., Stock, D., Turley, D. 2008. Miscanthus: breeding our way to a better future. Aspects of Applied Biology 90 pp. 199-206. Cadair Other


Buanafina, M.M.d.O., Timms-Taravella, E.J., Robson, P.R.H., Morris, P., Wiffen, D., Dalton, S.J., Bettany, A.J.E.Humphreys, M.O. 2005. Nylon mesh as an improved support for bombarded calli or cell suspensions. In F. P. O'Mara., R. J. Wilkins., L. 't Mannetje., D. K. Lovett., P. A. M. Rogers., T. M. Boland. (eds) XX International Grassland Conference: Offered Papers. The 4th International Symposium on the Molecular Breeding of Forage and Turf & Post-Congress Satellite Workshop of the XX International Grassland Congress - Genetic improvement of grasses and other forage crops. 1st edn, Wageningen Academic Publishers Cadair Other

Morris, P., Dalton, S.J., Buanafina, M.M.d.O., Robson, P.R.H., Bettany, A.J.E., Timms, E.J.Humphreys, M.O. 2005. A comparison of hygromycin and paromomycin selection strategies in the genetic transformation of seven Lolium, Festuca, Poa and Agrostis species. Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on the Molecular Breeding of Forage and Turf. XXth International Grassland Congress. Cadair Other


Li, Q., Robson, P.R.H., Bettany, A.J.E., Donnison, I.S., Thomas, H., Scott, I.M. 2004. Modification of senescence in ryegrass transformed with IPT under the control of a monocot senescence-enhanced promoter. Plant Cell Reports 22 (11) pp. 816-821. 10.1007/s00299-004-0762-6 Cadair

Robson, P.R.H., Donnison, I.S., Wang, K., Frame, B., Pegg, S.E., Thomas, A.M., Thomas, H. 2004. Leaf senescence is delayed in maize expressing the Agrobacterium IPT gene under the control of a novel maize senescence-enhanced promoter. Plant Biotechnology Journal 2 (2) pp. 101-112. 10.1046/j.1467-7652.2004.00054.x Cadair

Adams, J., Morris, P., Robson, P., Dunn-Coleman, N., Donnison, I. 2004. Fermentation of starch from maize mutants for biofuel production. 2004 Plant Science Wales. Cadair


Devlin, P.F., Robson, P., Patel, S.R., Goosey, L., Sharrock, R.A., Whitelam, G.C. 1999. Phytochrome D Acts in the Shade-Avoidance Syndrome in Arabidopsis by Controlling Elongation Growth and Flowering Time. Plant Physiology 119 (3) pp. 909-916. 10.​1104/​pp.​119.​3.​909 Cadair