Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection

Covering the practical and fundamental aspects of Chemical Ecology, Pesticide Resistance and Lipid Metabolism

Head of Department: Prof Linda Field
Deputy Head of Department: Dr Michael Birkett
Departmental Secretary: Mrs Sheila Bishop

Research Teams

Lipid Metabolism and Signalling

Camelina Seeds Banner

Research focuses on lipid metabolism and signalling, in particular on the mechanism and roles of lipid catabolism and the impact of these processes on plant physiology and lipid engineering.

Pesticide Resistance

Myzus persicae banner

The research of this group involves the detection/monitoring of resistance to existing and new pesticides and genetic and toxicological characterisation of resistance traits.

Chemical Ecology

Chemical ecology research at Rothamsted exploits long established and acclaimed expertise in the identification and development of pheromones and other semiochemicals (signalling chemicals) for use in crop protection.

Department Articles


Peer reviewed publications from the BCCP department

National Insect Week Podcast

As part of National Insect Week (organised by the Royal Entomology SocietyProfessor Lin Field discusses the work of the BCCP group, Rothamsted and debates whether the use of neonicotinoid insecticides are causing the recent decline in bee abundances.

Resistance to Pyrethroids in Varroa destructor

The poster Resistance to pyrethroids in Varroa destructor is to be presented at The Seventh International Symposium on Molecular Insect Science.

Neonicotinoids and bees

Rothamsted's position on the effects of Neonicotinoids insecticides on and bee behaviour.

New evolutionary mechanism in fungicide resistance

Analysis of samples from a 160-year-old experiment at Rothamsted Research reveals the re-emergence of an ancient gene due to modern agricultural practices.

Pests and diseases can develop resistance to chemicals used for crop protection, and this poses a major challenge for future food security. The phenomenon of resistance is not unique to agriculture – the issue of drug resistance by microbiotic organisms poses serious challenges for human health also.

Role of pesticides in bee decline

Scientists call for evidence-driven debate

An international panel of scientists including Professor Lin Field from Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from the BBSRC, is today calling for an evidence-driven debate over whether a widely used type of insecticide is to blame for declines in bees and other insect pollinators.

See also

Neonicotinoids and bees

Rothamsted's position on the effects of Neonicotinoids insecticides on and bee behaviour.

Advanced Training Partnerships

Rothamsted Research offers a post graduate award in Current Research in Crop Protection, as part of the BBSRC Advanced Training Partnerships Programme

Department Press Releases

Role of pesticides in bee decline

An international panel of scientists including Professor Lin Field from Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from the BBSRC, is today calling for an evidence-driven debate over whether a widely used type of insecticide is to blame for declines in bees and other insect pollinators.

Tsetse fly genome; an invaluable resource towards the control of sleeping sickness

Rothamsted Research scientists are part of the international consortium that sequenced the genome of the tsetse fly and started characterising the sensory genes of the flies.

Rothamsted Research is granted permission by Defra to carry out a field trial with GM Camelina plants

Rothamsted Research is granted permission by Defra to carry out a field trial with GM Camelina plants that produce omega-3 fish oils in their seeds.

Producing more oil from seeds, the synthetic biology way

Rothamsted Research scientists use multistep metabolic engineering to boost seed oil content

Rothamsted Research submits application to Defra for permission to carry out GM field trial

The trial will test whether GM Camelina sativa plants are able to make significant quantities of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) in the seed of the plant under field conditions. A public consultation has begun.

A single diatom accumulates EPA and DHA high value Omega-3

Rothamsted Research scientists demonstrate for the first time the use of metabolic engineering in microalgae to modify the accumulation of high value Omega-3 fatty acids.


Studentships vacancies

  • Quantifying the impacts of the neonicotinoid restriction on oilseed rape pest control, pollination and productivity

    The recent EU restriction on the use of neonicotinoids for oilseed rape (OSR) production has resulted in much speculation, but little evidence, on the impacts the ban has on pest control and crop production. Farmers report crops lost to cabbage stem flea beetle damage, and a move towards foliar-applied pyrethroid insecticides.  This studentship will use a replicated field experiment to compare pest damage and production under 6 treatments: no pest control; neonicotinoid seed dressing; pyrethroid spray(s); acetamiprid spray(s); trap cropping; and undersowing with legumes.

  • Characterisation of Chemical Signalling from Beneficial Trichoderma spp.

    Trichoderma species are ubiquitous soil saprotrophs utilized in agriculture for their biocontrol activities. Some strains additionally possess the ability to activate induced systemic resistance (ISR) to a broad range of pathogens. Other strains have been shown to stimulate plant growth through the production of plant-growth-promoting (PGP) compounds, although both traits are rarely found together. This project focuses upon a novel, free-living, strain of T.

  • Metabolic engineering of microalgae with enhanced high value lipid production

    Microalgae produce a wide range of high-value compounds such as omega-3 Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (LC-PUFAs), carotenoids, antioxidants and also are a potential source of biofuel. Microalgal production of omega-3 LC-PUFAs is a relatively new emerging research field and significant efforts in strain development and cultivation technologies are required to reduce currently high production prices for algal biomass.

  • Functional Characterisation of AtELO1 in Arabidopsis thaliana using reverse genetics

    ELO genes were first identified in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae where they are responsible for the synthesis of saturated Very Long Chain Fatty Acids (VLCFAs). Higher plants contain saturated and mono-unsaturated VLCFAs which are found in almost all lipid classes but are essential components of sphingolipids and essential for plant development. Interestingly, in land plants VLCFAs synthesis is mediated by the KCS genes, a gene family completely unrelated to the ELO genes. Arabidopsis thaliana contains 21 KCS paralogues with various degrees of tissue specificity.

  • Host plant colonisation by the model pest aphid, Myzus persicae

    Preventing crop losses to pests by host plant resistance plays an important role in food security and sustainable agriculture. The project will elucidate the molecular mechanisms influencing how a model pest species colonises host plants. It will focus on the interaction of peach-potato aphid, Myzus persicae, with potato and will investigate a wild potato species (Solanum stoloniferum) that is aphid resistant and the cultivated potato (Solanum tuberosum) which is susceptible.

  • Unravelling interactions between cereal aphids and ancestral wheat lines to elucidate mechanisms of aphid resistance.

    By safeguarding the yield potential of our crops, crop protection forms an integral part of food security. Wheat is the dominant crop for human consumption in temperate countries and population growth, coupled with per capita increase in consumption drives demand which is expected to keep rising. Currently aphid damage to crops is controlled mainly by insecticide treatments but selection of resistance to these compounds is now widespread and highly resistant populations are present in most countries.

  • Monitoring and investigating altered fungicide sensisitivity in UK field populations of Pyrenopeziza brassicae, the cause of light leaf spot in oilseed rape

    Pyrenopeziza brassicae (Pb) causes light leaf spot (LLS), one of the most important oilseed rape (OSR) diseases in the UK, with an annual loss in excess of £140 million in 2014. Although OSR cultivars resistant to light leaf spot are available, even the most resistant commercial cultivars can still develop LLS under favourable weather conditions. Consistent control relies on the application of systemic fungicides.

  • Metabolic engineering of cowpea roots to combat striga parasitic weeds

    Parasitic weeds from the Striga genus destroy subsistence cereal crops that resource-poor farming communities rely on in sub-Saharan Africa, causing famine and societies to abandon infested areas. Rothamsted Research and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology discovered that intercropping cereals with a forage legume from the Desmodium genus prevents the weed parasitizing cereals. Desmodium root exudates actively inhibit striga parasitism of cereals and the strategy is now deployed by over 70,000 farmers in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia). 

  • Discovery of novel alleles to enhance bound phenolic content of wheat grain

    This project addresses the BBSRC priority “Food, nutrition and health”, specifically “research to enhance the bioavailability of micro-nutrients and other components beneficial to health”. Wheat grain constitutes a large component of the human diet. Recently there has been much interest in the health benefits associated with phenolic compounds present in wheat grain, the majority of which is ferulic acid and coumaric acid ester-linked within cell walls in the grain outer layers, with lesser amounts of free and conjugated forms.

  • Characterisation of the plant N-end rule, a protein degradation pathway of agricultural importance

    Turnover of regulatory proteins is a hugely important control mechanism in signalling and development in plants. Recently, we discovered that a specialised pathway of targeted protein degradation- the N-end rule pathway- regulates ABA signalling and seed oil mobilisation (Holman et al., 2009 PNAS USA) and acts as a sensor for hypoxia and nitric oxide (Gibbs et al., 2011 Nature; 2014, Mol. Cell). Others have shown important roles in leaf development and senescence (Graciet et al., 2011 TIPS).

  • Lipid metabolism and plant defence

    As the population grows, so must the amount of food produced. Three mutants of the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana display an enhanced disease resistance (EDR) phenotype to powdery mildew. In order to get a better understanding of why the plants are resistant to disease and if it is possible to exploit this trait in crops this project aims to utilise metabolomics, transcriptomics and microscopy to understand the mechanism of the EDR phenotype.

  • Securing seed oil synthesis: what can we learn from the extremities?

    Vegetable oils underpin the global bio-based economy, securing the supply of these oils is the challenge facing modern Agriculture.  To meet this challenge, it is essential to identify the controlling factors that are influenced by environmental stress and regulate the flux of fatty acids through various oil assembly pathways to produce seed oils. Much progress has been made in seed acyl-lipid metabolism using model species; this project will use the extremophile oilseed species to identify lipid associated stress tolerance strategies.


Department People

title First Name Last Name Department Location
View Dr Gia Aradottir BCCP Harpenden
View Mrs Sarah Atkins BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Stephen Barasa BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Cristina Barrero-Sicilia BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Chris Bass BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Katherine Beadle BCCP
View Dr Frederic Beaudoin BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Madeleine Berger BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Michael Birkett BCCP Harpenden
View Mrs Sheila Bishop BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Alix Blockley BCCP Harpenden
View Ms Julie Bristow BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Richard Broughton BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Toby Bruce BCCP Harpenden
View Dr John Caulfield BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Keith Chamberlain BCCP Harpenden
View Mrs Di Cox BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Emyr Davies BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Pilar Diez de la Fuente BCCP Harpenden
View Mrs Manuela Eckel-Zimmer BCCP Harpenden
View Prof Linda Field BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Stephen Foster BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Bart Fraaije BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Andre Franceschini Sarria BCCP
View Miss Leanne Freeman BCCP, PBCS Harpenden
View Miss Lucy Gannon BCCP Harpenden
View Mr William Garrood BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Sam Gilzean BCCP, BIS Harpenden
View Dr Joel Gonzalez Cabrera BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Alex Greenslade BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Omar Gutierrez Alonso BCCP, PBCS Harpenden
View Dr Mary Hamilton BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Bing Hao BCCP Harpenden
View Ms Sandra Harvey BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Richard Haslam BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Nichola Hawkins BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Antony Hooper BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Bhupinder Khambay BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Narin Kirikyali BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Jing Luo BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Diego Magalhaes BCCP Harpenden
View Ms Helen Martin BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Michaela Matthes BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Flora McCluskey BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Louise Michaelson BCCP Harpenden
View Prof Johnathan Napier BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Asa Nordgren BCCP
View Mrs Linda Oliphant BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Suzanne Partridge BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Alexandra Paul PBCS, BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Mirel Puinean BCCP Harpenden
View Ms Emma Randall BCCP Harpenden
View Mrs Sonia Rodriguez-Vargas BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Olga Sayanova BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Theresia Schaedler BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Kumar Saurabh Singh BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Lesley Smart BCCP Harpenden
View Ms Laura Stoffels BCCP
View Dr Frederica Theodoulou BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Bartek Troczka BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Sarah Usher BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Royah Vaezi BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Jozsef Vuts BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Nigel Watts BCCP, AGEC, PBCS, BIS Harpenden
View Mr Martin Williamson BCCP Harpenden
View Miss Christine Woodcock BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Hongtao Zhang BCCP Harpenden
View Dr Jing-Jiang Zhou BCCP Harpenden
View Mr Christoph Zimmer BCCP Harpenden