Phone: 024 765 74992
Office (W): TPB0.25
Office (GH): D31
Warwick Centres and GRPs
Vacancies and Opportunities
For PhD and postdoctoral opportunities, and interest in potential collaborations, please contact me at the above email address.
Feeding the future world population will require substantially increasing food production from the same area of land while still maintaining a healthy environment. Vegetable crops have a particularly important nutritional role in our diet compared with cereals, however, their marketability and yield are particularly impacted by pests and diseases (P&D). In addition, crops such as oilseed rape require a lot of nitrogen fertiliser to maximise yield which results in a large carbon footprint. Breeding new crop varieties that are more resistant to P&D, or that have lower fertiliser requirements, represents an environmentally sustainable approach to reduce crop losses and improve yield that reduces the need for harmful agrochemicals. However, we cannot rely on crop genetics alone; we need to use all the tools available to us to improve crop production. An approach that integrates different methods is known as integrated pest management, or IPM for short.
I specialise in the genetics of oilseed rape and horticultural crops, with a particular focus on brassicas, lettuce and onion, but I have also worked on a number of other crops as well. The approaches used often involve screening crop germplasm collections to identify plants that have the desired properties and then working to understand the genes that confer these properties so that they can be utilised in breeding. I work closely with other colleagues who specialise in a range of areas, including viruses, insect pests, pathogens and crop nutrition. In addition, I am also interested in understanding the biology of the different P&D organisms to inform the development of IPM control strategies. Current work includes virus resistance in brassica and carrots, aphid pests of brassicas and lettuce, pathogens such as clubroot on brassicas and fusarium on lettuce, and nitrogen use efficiency in oilseed rape.
Research: Technical Summary
My research principally covers crop trait genetics and plant-pest/pathogen interactions with the ultimate goal of delivering to sustainable crop production and reduced crop losses. I work with a number of colleagues at the Warwick Crop Centre and elsewhere who are specialists in areas such as entomology, virology, fungal pathology and genomics, to address traits in oilseed rape (Brassica napus), and a range of horticultural crops including vegetable brassicas, lettuce, onion and carrot. We have developed germplasm resources for each of these crops, and their wild species relatives, that represent the diversity available in research collections and genebanks, such as the UK Vegetable Genebank at Wellesbourne. We also host a number of biparental mapping populations that we use for QTL mapping. We develop traits assays and screen these populations using appropriate controlled environment, glasshouse or field trials to find accessions that exhibit the most extreme phenotypes. We are currently genotyping these populations with the latest genomics approaches to help map the loci and ultimately identify the genes controlling these traits. The output of this work includes germplasm containing improved levels of the traits of interest together with genetic markers to facilitate breeding. As a consequence, we regularly work closely with the breeding and grower industries. Current work includes virus resistance in brassica and carrots, controlling aphid pests of brassicas and lettuce, resistance to pathogens such as clubroot on brassicas and fusarium on lettuce, and nitrogen use efficiency in oilseed rape. To help enhance the durability of the genetic traits we are also interested in developing integrated pest management strategies, such as combining insect pathogenic fungi with partial plant resistance to aphids to create a multi-pronged crop protection strategy. To do this also requires careful analysis of the biology of the pests themselves.
I curate and distribute a number of research plant genetic resource collections, including diversity sets and mapping populations, for oilseed rape, vegetable brassicas, lettuce and onion – see VeGIN website below.
Two key project websites are:
VeGIN - Vegetable Genetic Improvement Network
OREGIN - Oilseed Rape Genetic Improvement Network
For a full list of publications, see WRAP
- 2022 - present: School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick – Associate Professor
- 2017 – 2022: School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick – Assistant Professor
- 2010 – 2017: Warwick Crop Centre, School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick – Senior Research Fellow
- 2004 – 2010: Warwick HRI, Wellesbourne – Band 6 PD – David Pink lab
- 1998 – 2004: Horticulture Research International, Wellesbourne – Band 6 PD (BBSRC institutional core science grant) – Graham King lab
- 1994 – 1998: University of Leeds – Postdoc (BBSRC) – Philip Gilmartin lab
- 1992 – 1994: University of Virginia, USA – Postdoc (NSF) – Steve Kay lab
- 1985 1992: University of Bristol – Postdoc (BBSRC) – Trevor Griffiths lab