At Warwick Crop Centre we carry out research on a wide variety of plant diseases with a focus on vegetable crops. In particular we are addressing the challenges of intractable soilborne diseases through approaches such as crop genetic improvement, disease forecasting, biological control and biofumigation. This neccessarily involves a good understanding of pathogen biology, epidemiology, diversity and population structure and we are employing a wide range of molecular and more conventional techniques to do this such as next generation sequencing, modelling, controlled environment studies and development of robust and reproducible pathogen inoculation systems. The scope of the plant disease work at Warwick Crop Centre covers the range from fundamental to applied, with funding from research councils (BBSRC), government (Defra), Innovate UK (formerly TSB) and the Horticultural Development Company (HDC). We work very closely with the industry on the majority of projects and interact and collaborate with the wider crop and plant research community both within the School of Life Sciences, in the UK and internationally. Other plant pathology related researchers in the School of Life Sciences include Dr John Walsh, Prof. Eric Holub, Dr Vardis Ntoukakis and Dr Patrick Schäfer.
HDC Horticultural Research Fellowship in Plant Pathology
The Warwick Crop Centre receives funding for a Fellowship to train and mentor Dr Andrew Taylor in plant pathology as part of the HDC's strategy to respond to skills gaps in horticulture. Andy is working on a number of projects with an emphasis on molecular approaches.
Some of the major plant diseases we research
- Root diseases of onion: work on Fusarium oxysporum causing basal rot disease as part of the BBSRC HAPI initiative is aimed at identifying and exploiting new sources of resistance in an onion diversity set and understanding the genetic basis for F. oxysporum pathogenicity. Previous work with Sclerotium cepivorum causing white rot disease has investigated biological control approaches.
- Sclerotinia disease of multiple crops: research on Sclerotinia sclerotiorum over a number of years has focussed on epidemiology, disease forecasting and identifying new sources of resistance in Brassica. More recently the diversity and population structure of the pathogen was investigated in the UK for the first time. This led to the first report of the related species S. subarctica in the UK. A recently completed HDC PhD project further examined the incidence of S. subarctica with a focus on Scotland and Norway as well as the potential of biofumigation for disease control.
- Cavity spot disease of carrots: this root disease of carrots caused principally by Pythium violae is still a major challenge for researchers and the industry. The lack of research tools including a reliable inoculation system has hampered progress but some of these fundamental issues are now being addressed in an HDC-funded PhD while another project is evaluating green manures and biofumigation as a potential control strategy.
- Parsnip canker: caused by a complex of plant pathogens including Itersonilia and Mycocentrospora spp., a BBSRC CASE Phd studentship is investigating Itersonilia diversity and identifying sources of resistance in parnsip breeding lines with Elsoms Seeds, Ltd.
- Narcissus basal rot: adding to the Crop Centre's research on Narcissus, HDC-funded work has identified potential new fungicide actives for control of basal rot casued by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. narcissi.