Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows


Nigel Halford

Programme Leader
Plant Sciences

I obtained my first degree in Genetics from the University of Liverpool in 1983 and a Masters degree in Applied Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from University College London in 1984.  I studied the genes encoding a family of wheat seed proteins called the high molecular weight subunits of glutenin for my PhD while at Rothamsted in the 1980s, then spent 11 years at Long Ashton Research Station near Bristol before returning to Rothamsted in 2002.  I am a Visiting Professor at Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences and was awarded The Magnolia Silver Award by the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government in 2012.  I am also Special Professor at the University of Nottingham, Council Member and Programme Secretary for the Association of Applied Biologists, Fellow of the Society of Biology and former member of the UK’s Advisory Committee for Animal Feedingstuffs (ACAF). 

My team works on the genetics of metabolic regulation in crop plants, how plant metabolism is affected by stress and how it can be manipulated to improve crop yield and food safety.  Specific interests are:

Interactions between metabolic and stress signalling pathways in plants

Role of ABA and SNF1-related protein kinases (SnRKs) in controlling cereal seed development

Role of metabolic signalling in response to disease

Role of protein kinase GCN2 in controlling free amino acid levels in cereal grain; role of asparagine as a signalling molecule

Reducing the acrylamide-forming potential of wheat, rye and potato: understanding the genetic and agronomic factors that affect free asparagine and reducing sugar accumulation; mathematical modelling of asparagine metabolism

The effect of stress on crop composition

Plant biotechnology

+44 (0) 1582 763 133 ext: +44 1582 938203
Rothamsted Research, West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ



PhD in Structure and expression of the genes encoding the high molecular weight subunits of wheat glutenin (Council for National Academic Awards)


MSc in Applied Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (University College London)


BSc in Genetics (University of Liverpool)

Measures of esteem


  • Invited Speaker, Healthgrain Forum 2017 Spring Workshop, Leuven, Belgium
  • Invited speaker, 254th American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition, Washington DC


  • Speaker, Wheat: genetic improvement of end use quality, AAB, Rothamsted
  • Invited speaker, Food Security DTP Annual Conference 2016 - Lancaster
  • Invited speaker, 2nd Int. Conference on Food Safety and Regulatory Measures, London
  • Invited speaketr, EAPR Post Harvest Section meeting, Wageningen, Netherlandse
  • Invited speaker, BBSRC Showcase event, Campden-BRI
  • Invited speaker and organising committee member, 2nd Global Summit on Plant Science, London
  • Member of Editorial Board: Frontiers in Plant Science
  • Invited speaker and programme committee member, BITs 7th World Gene Convention 2016, Shanghai


  • Seminar speaker, University of the West of England
  • Invited speaker, Food, Nutrition and Agricultural Genomics Congress, London
  • Invited Speaker, Campden BRI Cereals, Milling and Baking Member Interest Group
  • Invited speaker, Federation of Bakers meeting on acrylamide, Food and Drink Federation, London
  • Member of Editorial Board, Applied and Translational Genomics
  • Invited speaker, International Potato Processing and Storage Convention, Bucharest
  • Invited Speaker, American Chemical Society 250th National Meeting, Boston
  • Invited speaker, Selectbio On-line: Advances in Plant Genomics 2015


  • Invited Speaker, European Commission workshop on acrylamide, Brussels
  • Organiser, Wheat Breeding 2014
  • Invited Speaker, Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology conference, Gothenburg
  • Invited Speaker, MONOGRAM meeting 2014
  • Invited Speaker, Food Nutrition and Genomics Conference, London
  • Speaker, Sulphur Metabolism in Plants, Freiburg
  • Invited speaker, Meijer Stakeholder Conference: Growing the Future, Middelburg, Netherlands
  • Invited speaker, Cereal Partners Worldwide, Grain Summit, Orbe, Switzerland
  • Co-organiser and after-dinner speaker, Breeding Crops for Climate Change, Leeds
  • Fellow of the Society of Biology


  • Seminar Speaker, University College Dublin
  • Invited speaker, International Plant Growth Substances Association Conference, Shanghai
  • Invited Speaker, EUCARPIA conference, July 2013
  • Invited Speaker, Agrigenomics Conference, Norwich, 2013
  • British Council Researcher Links Workshop Assessment Panel


  • Seminar speaker, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, Univ. of Sheffield
  • Devizes Festival Cafe Science, Speaker
  • Seminar, Firmenich, Shanghai: European GM perspective and 20:20 wheat
  • Seminar, Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences: European GM perspective and the 20:20 wheat programme
  • Magnolia Silver Award Winner, Shanghai Municipal People's Government
  • Member of Editorial Board, Food and Energy Security


  • Presentation and debate: Genetically modified crops: a European perspective. University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana
  • Research seminar: Studies on metabolic signalling in plants, from the molecular lab to applications in reducing acrylamide formation in common foods, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
  • Research seminar, Studies on metabolic signalling in plants, from the molecular lab to applications in reducing acrylamide formation in common foods. University of Leeds, Faculty of Biological Sciences


  • Special Professor, University of Nottingham


  • EFSA expert database


  • Visiting Professor, Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences


  • Council Member, Association of Applied Biologists


  • Member Advisory Committee for Animal Feedingstuffs
  • Member, American Chemical Society