Dr Keith Davies
Research Leader: Molecular Invertebrate Pathology and Biological Control
Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Rothamsted Research,
Harpenden, Herts., AL5 2JQ, UK.
Telephone: +44 (0)1582 763133 x2220. Fax: +44 (0)1582 760981
I am an invetebrate pathologist studing the interactions between plant parasitic nematodes and microbes. My research focuses on fungi and bacteria, especially those that have been found to be associated with nematode suppressive soils, and can potentially be developed into biological control agents as an alternative to nematicides. To date the application of microbes to control these nematodes has produced highly variable results with successes in one situation but not another. In order for success to be consistently predictable an understanding of the mechanisms by which these micro-organisms infect and reduce the populations of their nematode hosts is needed. This requires an approach that integrates knowledge of root-pathosystems biology and focuses on the molecular functions within a multitrophic host - pathogen - hyperparasitic system. In a stable environment each pathosystem comprises of modular units that build into hierarchies of stable complexity. Integrating genomic information with the population level phenotypic complexity of individuals, will, in turn, determine the population dynamics of both the hosts and their pathogens within a given community. These key components will be important in establishing overall root health. To this end, I have recently been using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism for understanding infection mechanisms with the hope that what we can learn will help in the development of novel control strategies.
As there is no such thing as a post-agricultural society, my research takes place within the context of reconciling the conflict between agricultural production and food security on the one hand, and, environmental, economic and social sustainability on the other. I therefore also have an interest in the relationship between society and science. I am a Fellow of The Linnean Society of London, and a member of The European Society of Nematology, The American Society of Nematologists, and The Royal Institute of Philosophy.