PHI-base, the Pathogen-Host Interaction database is an open access internet resource which provides information on pathogenicity, virulence and effector genes from different pathogens, where the contribution of the genes to pathogenicity has been experimentally tested. In addition, at the request of the international community, negative results obtained from well designed and executed experiments have been included. PHI-base also provides information on commercially used drug targets and variant pathogen gene sequences which lead to drug-resistance / drug insensitivity.
Plant Biology and Crop Science
To carry out world-class plant biology and crop science research that delivers new knowledge, innovation and practices that will increase crop productivity and quality and develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production.
Research in PBCS contributes to our Institute themes:
- 20:20 Wheat®: Increasing wheat productivity to yield 20 tonnes per hectare in 20 years.
- Cropping Carbon: Optimising carbon capture by grasslands and perennial energy crops, such as Willow, to help underpin the UK's transition to a low carbon economy.
- Designing Seeds: Harnessing our expertise in seed biology and biochemistry to deliver improved health and nutrition through seeds.
- Sustainable Systems: Designing, modelling and assessing sustainable agricultural systems that increase productivity while minimising environmental impact.
The aim of our work is to identify and characterise genetic solutions for the control of take-all disease in wheat. Take-all is a serious root disease of wheat which is a major constraint during consecutive wheat cropping. The disease is caused by the soil dwelling ascomycete fungus Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici (Ggt) (Freeman & Ward, 2004). The fungus causes black necrotic lesions in the root tissue which restrict the uptake of water and nutrients from the soil (Figure 1).
Head of Department
Dr Malcolm J Hawkesford
Deputy Head of Department
Dr Peter Eastmond
Cell Walls: Rowan Mitchell, Till Pellny
Photosynthesis and Water Use Efficiency: John Andralojc
Plant Architecture: Andy Phillips, Peter Hedden, Stephen Thomas
Plant Nutrition: Malcolm Hawkesford, Peter Buchner
Plant Pathogens: Kim Hammond-Kosack, Kostya Kanyuka, Jon West
Wheat Quality: Peter Shewry
Oil Quality: Peter Eastmond, Smita Kurup, Alison Huttly
Wheat Transformation: Alison Huttly
Signalling: Nigel Halford
Metabolomics: Mike Beale, Jane Ward
Bioimaging: Smita Kurup
Sugar Beet: Belinda Townsend
Department Press Releases
Septoria leaf blotch is a highly damaging disease of wheat and scientists are looking for ways to manage it more effectively. Most studies have looked directly at the interaction between wheat and Septoria but, in a novel approach, scientists at Rothamsted Research, who are strategically funded by the BBSRC, have instead looked at how plant species that do not get infected by Septoria achieve resistance. Most plants are resistant to the majority of microbes, a phenomenon known as non-host resistance, or NHR.
A recent study found that decreased biodiversity of Pseudomonas, a genus of soil bacteria, is associated with a reduced severity of the fungal disease ‘take-all’ in second year wheat. The work revealed that disease incidence was linked to the wheat variety grown in the first year, and that this also had a profound effect on Pseudomonas species community structure. Now researchers have found that the useful activity of Pseudomonas strains that suppress take-all disease is severely reduced when additional Pseudomonas strains are present.
Since the late 1990s, UK farmers growing barley have seen the yields and quality of their harvests hurt by an emerging disease called Ramularia leaf spot. The disease is caused by the pathogenic fungus Ramularia collo-cygni. Now a team of scientists studying this fungus have sequenced and explored its genome.
In young plants, you can sometimes distinguish cultivated wheat varieties from wild species by their colour. Wild wheat appears either glossy green or a matte bluish-grey, but cultivated varieties are almost always the latter. The bluish-grey colour comes from a waxy film thought to increase yields and protect the plant from environmental stress, particularly drought and diseases. The genes that produce the coating have long eluded researchers, but work by an international team has now revealed them.
Professor Peter Shewry has received the Clyde H. Bailey medal in recognition of his research into the development, structures and composition of the wheat grain. His work at Rothamsted Research focuses on improving wheat quality for human health, particularly on enhancing fibre and phenolic acid content, and performance in milling and bread-making. The medal recognises outstanding achievements in the service of cereal science and technology.
The Indo-UK Centre for the improvement of Nitrogen use Efficiency in Wheat (INEW) was launched today at the Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (ICAR-IIWBR, Karnal, Haryana, India). The centre will generate new types of wheat with improved use of nitrogen, which can be used in breeding programmes in both countries, carrying out a joint research programme, developing shared technologies and facilities and providing training opportunities for early career scientists.
In planta RNAi for medium-to-high throughput identification of fungal (Fusarium spp.) genes essential for plant infection
Fusarium ear blight (FEB) caused by a Fusarium species complex is economically damaging disease of cereal crops. These fungi also produce mycotoxins which are harmful to humans and animals. Natural resistance to Fusarium spp. has been identified in exotic wheat germplasm but it is only partial and multigene controlled, and introducing this trait into elite varieties through breeding is very challenging. Fungicides use constitutes an important part of FEB disease management programmes. However, repeated application of fungicides lead to the fungal field populations evolving resistance to fungicides. Hence, the development of new approaches to combat FEB is critical.
Exploring the patho-adaptive evolution of a pathogenic fungus to two different types of plant host resistance
Fusarium ear blight (FEB), caused by the fungus Fusarium graminearum (Fg) is the most damaging floral disease of wheat worldwide. FEB disease reduces grain yield, grain quality and contaminates grain with harmful mycotoxins. Various FEB control options are available including semi-resistant wheat cultivars expressing major quantitative trait loci and transgenic wheat plants genetically engineered to induce a trans-kingdom silencing phenomena called Host-Induced Gene Silencing.