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.


Assessing seed priming, sowing date and mulch film to improve the germination and survival of direct sown Miscanthus sinensis in the UKAshman, C. R., Awty-Carroll, D., Mos, M., Robson, P. & Clifton-Brown, J. 2018 In : GCB Bioenergy.
Using k-NN to analyse images of diverse germination phenotypes and detect single seed germination in Miscanthus sinensisAwty-Carroll, D., Clifton-Brown, J. & Robson, P. 2018 In : Plant Methods.14, 7 p., 5
Genetic relationships between spring emergence, canopy phenology and biomass yield increase the accuracy of genomic prediction in MiscanthusDavey, C., Robson, P., Hawkins, S., Farrar, K., Clifton-Brown, J., Donnison, I. & Slavov, G. 2017 In : Journal of Experimental Botany.68, 18, p. 5093-5102
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 ClustersWildhagen, 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-B., Taylor, G. & Polle, A. 2017 In : Tree Physiology.
Towards Miscanthus combustion quality improvement: the role of flowering and senescenceJensen, E., Robson, P., Farrar, K., Thomas Jones, S., Clifton-Brown, J., Payne, R. & Donnison, I. 2017 In : GCB Bioenergy.9, 5, p. 891-908
Environmental costs and benefits of growing Miscanthus for bioenergy in the UKMcCalmont, J., Hastings, A., Mcnamara, N., Richter, G. M., Robson, P., Donnison, I. & Clifton-Brown, J. 2017 In : GCB Bioenergy.9, 3, p. 489-507
Progress in upscaling Miscanthus biomass production for the European bio-economy with seed-based hybridsClifton-Brown, J., Hastings, A., Mos, M., McCalmont, J., Ashman, C., Awty-Carroll, D., Cerazy, J., Chiang, Y-C., 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-S., 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-U., 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 In : GCB Bioenergy.9, 1, p. 6-17
Phenomics analysis of drought responses in Miscanthus collected from different geographical locationsMalinowska, M., Donnison, I. & Robson, P. 2017 In : GCB Bioenergy.9, 1, p. 78-91
The impact of soil salinity on the yield, composition and physiology of the bioenergy grass Miscanthus x giganteus.Stavridou, E., Webster, R. & Robson, P. 2017 In : GCB Bioenergy.9, 1, p. 92-104
Review: Improving the impact of plant science on urban planning and designWootton-Beard, P., Xing, Y., Durai Prabhakaran, R. T., Robson, P., Bosch, M., Thornton, J., Ormondroyd, G., Jones, P. & Donnison, I. 2016 In : Buildings.6, 4, 27 p.
Selection and Genome-Wide Prediction of Phenology and Biomass Yield in MiscanthusDavey, C., Nipper, R., Robson, P., Farrar, K., Clifton-Brown, J., Jensen, E., Donnison, I. & Slavov, G. 2016 1 p.
EGF at 50: The Future of European Grasslands: Proceedings of the 25th General Meeting of the European Grassland Federation. Aberystwyth, Wales 7-11 September 2014Hopkins, A. (ed.), Collins, R. (ed.), Fraser, M. (ed.), King, V. R. (ed.), Lloyd, D. (ed.), Moorby, J. (ed.) & Robson, P. (ed.) 2014 Prifysgol Aberystwyth | Aberystwyth University. 897 p.
Screening for potential co-products in a Miscanthus sinensis mapping family by liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry detectionParveen, I., Wilson, T., Threadgill, M. D., Luyten, J., Roberts, R. E., Robson, P. R., Hauck, B. D., Donnison, I. S. & Winters, A. L. 2014 In : Phytochemistry.105, p. 186-19610 p.
Revealing the Molecular and Physiological Responses to Water Deficit in the Bioenergy Crop Miscanthus x giganteusIngs, J., Mur, L. A. J., Clifton-Brown, J. C., Bosch, M. & Robson, P. R. 2014 p. 34
Genome-wide association studies and prediction of 17 traits related to phenology, biomass and cell wall composition in the energy grass Miscanthus sinensisSlavov, G. T., Nipper, R., Robson, P., Farrar, K., Allison, G. G., Bosch, M., Clifton-Brown, J. C., Donnison, I. S. & Jensen, E. 2014 In : New Phytologist.201, 4, p. 1227-123913 p.
Genome-wide association studies and prediction of traits related to phenology, biomass and cell wall composition in Miscanthus sinensis.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 p. W422
Recent advances in Miscanthus science and breedingClifton-Brown, J. C., Purdy, S. J., Hayes, C. M., Ashman, C. R., Jones, L. E., Farrar, K., Huang, L. S-F., 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-U., Squance, M., Swaller, T., Shield, I., Xi, Q., Karp, A. & Flavell, R. 2014
Breeding Miscanthus for bioenergyClifton-Brown, J. C., Robson, P. R., Davey, C. L., Farrar, K., Hayes, C. M., Huang, L. S-F., 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-U., Salvatore, C., Slavov, G. T., Valentine, J., Webster, R. J., Youell, S. J. & Donnison, I. S. 2013 Biomass Crops: Breeding and Genetics. Saha, M. C., Bhandari, H. S. & Bouton, J. H. (eds.). Wiley
Impact of Miscanthus x giganteus senescence times on fast pyrolysis bio-oil qualityMos, M., Banks, S., Nowakowski, D., Robson, P. R., Bridgwater, A. & Donnison, I. S. 2013 In : Bioresource Technology.129, p. 335-3428 p.
A population genomics approach to accelerating the domestication of the energy grass Miscanthus.Slavov, G. T., Robson, P. R., Jensen, E. F., Farrar, K., Ma, X-F., Swaller, T., Flavell, R., Clifton-Brown, J. C. & Donnison, I. S. 2013 p. W088
Flowering induction in the bioenergy grass Miscanthus sacchariflorus is a quantitative short-day response, whilst delayed flowering under long days increases biomass accumulationJensen, E., Robson, P., Norris, J., Cookson, A., Farrar, K., Donnison, I. & Clifton-Brown, J. 2013 In : Journal of Experimental Biology.64, 2, p. 541-552
Variation in canopy duration in the perennial biofuel crop Miscanthus reveals complex associations with yield: Canopy duration and yield in MiscanthusRobson, P. R. H., Farrar, K., Gay, A. P., Jensen, E. F., Clifton-Brown, J. C. & Donnison, I. S. 2013 In : Journal of Experimental Biology.64, 8, p. 2373-2383
Accelerating the domestication of a bioenergy crop: identifying and modelling morphological targets for sustainable yield increase in MiscanthusRobson, P., Jensen, E., Hawkins, S., White, S. R., Kenobi, K., Clifton-Brown, J., Donnison, I. & Farrar, K. 2013 In : Journal of Experimental Botany.64, 14, p. 4143-4155
Physiological and growth responses to water deficit in the bioenergy crop Miscanthus x giganteusIngs, J., Mur, L. A. J., Robson, P. R. H. & Bosch, M. 2013 In : Frontiers in Plant Science.4, p. 468
Contrasting geographic patterns of genetic variation for molecular markers vs. phenotypic traits in the energy grass Miscanthus sinensisSlavov, G., Robson, P., Jensen, E., Hodgson, E., Farrar, K., Allison, G., Hawkins, S., Thomas-Jones, S., Ma, X-F., Huang, L., Swaller, T., Flavell, R., Clifton-Brown, J. & Donnison, I. 2013 In : GCB Bioenergy.5, 5, p. 562-571
Land use change from C3 grassland to C4 Miscanthus: effects on soil carbon content and estimated mitigation benefit after six yearsZatta, A., Clifton-Brown, J., Robson, P., Hastings, A. & Monti, A. 2013 In : GCB Bioenergy.6, 4, p. 360-37011 p.
Food vs. fuel: the use of land for lignocellulosic 'next generation' energy crops that minimize competition with primary food productionValentine, J., Clifton-Brown, J. C., Hastings, A., Robson, P. R., Allison, G. G. & Smith, P. 2012 In : GCB Bioenergy.4, 1, p. 1-1919 p.
Improving bioenergy crop yield and quality through manipulating senescenceRobson, P., Mos, M., Dee, H., Clifton-Brown, J. C. & Donnison, I. 2011 In : Aspects of Applied Biology.112, p. 323-3286 p.
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)Clifton-Brown, J., Robson, P., Sanderson, R., Hastings, A., Valentine, J. & Donnison, I. 2011 In : GCB Bioenergy.3, 5, p. 375-38612 p.
Impact of photoperiod and ambient temperature on days to flowering in Miscanthus speciesJensen, E. F., Loosley, M., Farrar, K., Robson, P. R., Norris, J., Clifton-Brown, J. C. & Donnison, I. S. 2011 p. P3.3
Phenotypic variation in senescence in Miscanthus: Towards optimising biomass quality and quantityRobson, P. R., Mos, M., Clifton-Brown, J. C. & Donnison, I. S. 2011 In : Bioenergy Research.5, 1, p. 95-10511 p.
A flexible quantitative methodology for the analysis of gene-flow between conventionally bred maize populations using microsatellite markersRobson, 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 In : Theoretical and Applied Genetics.122, 4, p. 819-82911 p.
Brachypodium as a model for studying traits relevant for the development of bioenergy grassesBosch, M., Roberts, L. A., Dalton, S. J., Robson, P. R., Donnison, I. S., Nielsen, K. & Mur, L. A. J. 2011 p. Abstract No: P2.9
Neomycin phosphotransferase gene (nptII) as a selectable marker for Brachypodium BD21Dalton, S. J., Bosch, M., Robson, P. R. & Donnison, I. S. 2011
Flowering time in MiscanthusJensen, E. F., Jones, S. T., Farrar, K., Robson, P. R., Clifton-Brown, J. C. & Donnison, I. S. 2011
Factors affecting rates of cross-pollination in maize growing under typical UK conditions RG0124Robson, 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 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (DEFRA Report 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 IBERSRobson, P., Jensen, E., Hodgson, E., Farrar, K., Slavov, G., Allison, G., Hawkins, S., Jones, S., Valentine, J., Clifton-Brown, J. & Donnison, I. 2011 In : Aspects of Applied Biology.112
Manipulation of plant architecture to optimise biomass yield in MiscanthusFarrar, K., Robson, P. R., Jensen, E. F., Hawkins, S., Clifton-Brown, J. C. & Donnison, I. S. 2010
Aligning the chemical composition of new Miscanthus varieties to the requirements of conversion processesAllison, G., Morris, C., Gill, S., Lister, S., Clifton-Brown, J., Jensen, E., Robson, P., Adams, J., Gallagher, J. & Donnison, I. 2010
Bioinformatics in the orphan cropsArmstead, I. P., Huang, L. S., Ravagnani, A., Robson, P. R. & Ougham, H. J. 2009 In : Briefings in Bioinformatics.10, 6, p. 645-6539 p.
Cellular and molecular characterisation of senescence in the energy grassMos, M., Robson, P. R. & Donnison, I. S. 2009 p. p20
Functional genomics of forage and bioenergy quality traits in the grassesDonnison, 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 Molecular Breeding of Forage Turf: Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on the Molecular Breeding of Forage Turf. Yamada, T. & Spangenberg, G. (eds.). p. 111-12313 p.
Exploiting model species to increase biomass yield in energy cropsFarrar, K., Hawkins, S., Jensen, E., Robson, P., Sanderson, R., Clifton-Brown, J. & Donnison, I. 2009
Bioenergy and biorenewables from grassesDonnison, I. S., Farrar, K., Robson, P. R., Clifton-Brown, J. C., Smith, S. P. (ed.) & Spikes, K. J. (ed.) 2008 IBERS Knowledge-based Innovations, 1, p. 25-284 p.
Optimising flowering time in Miscanthus for improved biomass yield and qualityJensen, E. F., Jones, S. T., Farrar, K., Robson, P. R. H., Clifton-Brown, J. C. & Donnison, I. S. 2008 p. L24
Miscanthus: breeding our way to a better futureClifton-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. (ed.), Green, M. (ed.), Karp, A. (ed.), Shield, I. (ed.), Stock, D. (ed.) & Turley, D. (ed.) 2008 In : Aspects of Applied Biology.90, p. 199-2068 p.
Nylon mesh as an improved support for bombarded calli or cell suspensionsBuanafina, 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. (ed.) 2005 XX International Grassland Conference: Offered Papers. O'Mara, F. P., Wilkins, R. J., 't Mannetje, L., Lovett, D. K., Rogers, P. A. M. & Boland, T. M. (eds.). 1 ed.Wageningen Academic Publishers
A comparison of hygromycin and paromomycin selection strategies in the genetic transformation of seven Lolium, Festuca, Poa and Agrostis speciesMorris, P., Dalton, S. J., Buanafina, M. M. D. O., Robson, P. R. H., Bettany, A. J. E., Timms, E. J. & Humphreys, M. O. (ed.) 2005
Modification of senescence in ryegrass transformed with IPT under the control of a monocot senescence-enhanced promoterLi, Q., Robson, P. R. H., Bettany, A. J. E., Donnison, I. S., Thomas, H. & Scott, I. M. 2004 In : Plant Cell Reports.22, 11, p. 816-8216 p.
Leaf senescence is delayed in maize expressing the Agrobacterium IPT gene under the control of a novel maize senescence-enhanced promoterRobson, P. R. H., Donnison, I. S., Wang, K., Frame, B., Pegg, S. E., Thomas, A. M. & Thomas, H. 2004 In : Plant Biotechnology Journal.2, 2, p. 101-11212 p.
Fermentation of starch from maize mutants for biofuel productionAdams, J., Morris, P., Robson, P., Dunn-Coleman, N. & Donnison, I. 2004
Phytochrome D Acts in the Shade-Avoidance Syndrome in Arabidopsis by Controlling Elongation Growth and Flowering TimeDevlin, P. F., Robson, P., Patel, S. R., Goosey, L., Sharrock, R. A. & Whitelam, G. C. 1999 In : Plant Physiology.119, 3, p. 909-916