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
A team of scientists in the UK and USA have generated a new groundbreaking resource of ten million mutations in bread and pasta wheat varieties.
Researchers and breeders can search the public wheat database online to identify changes in their genes of interest and request seeds to improve the nutrition and production of wheat worldwide. They anticipate this will speed up the development of the wheat crop with highly sought-after traits, including disease resistance and increased yield.
UK scientists have created a synthetic molecule that when applied to crops, has been shown to increase the size and starch content of wheat grains in the lab by up to 20 per cent. The new plant application, developed by Rothamsted Research and Oxford University, could help to solve the issue of increasing food insecurity across the globe; 795 million people are undernourished1 and this year’s El Nino2 has shown how vulnerable many countries are to climate-induced drought.
Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, submitted an application on 3rd November 2016 to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for permission to carry out GM field trials on the Rothamsted Farm in 2017 and 2018. Scientists at Rothamsted Research, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Essex and Lancaster University, have developed wheat plants that can carry out photosynthesis more efficiently i.e. convert light energy into plant biomass more efficiently. This trait has the potential to result in higher yielding plants.
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.