Arable crop diseases

Devising sustainable strategies for management of serious diseases of arable crops and their causes.

Research on oilseed rape focuses on phoma stem canker (Figure 1; caused by Leptosphaeria maculans and L. biglobosa) and light leaf spot (Figure 2; caused by Pyrenopeziza brassicae).

Our research areas include:

  • epidemiology in relation to genetics of host-pathogen interactions
  • diagnosis of complex infections by biological and molecular methods
  • evolutionary changes in pathogen populations (e.g. changes from avirulence to virulence against existing resistance genes)
  • pathogen variation in space and time
  • factors underlying epidemic development (e.g. spore dispersal, spore germination, infection, latent period, incubation period, sporulation) in relation to environmental factors (rainfall, temperature)

A main objective of the research is to devise sustainable strategies for management of serious diseases of arable crops by understanding more about resistance against the pathogens that cause these diseases and developing forecasting schemes to optimise fungicide use.

The group has developed forecasts to predict risks of severe disease epidemics (e.g. web-based interactive forecast for winter oilseed rape light leaf spot), both now and under predicted climate change.

Figure 1. Seasonal cycle of phoma stem canker epidemics in the UK in relation to components of oilseed rape (Brassica napus) resistance against Leptosphaeria maculans (modified from Fitt et al., 2006, European Journal of Plant Pathology 114: 3-15).

Figure 2. Seasonal cycle of light leaf spot epidemics in the UK in relation to components of oilseed rape (Brassica napus) resistance against Pyrenopeziza brassic.

Key staff

Professor Bruce DL Fitt MA PhD DIC FSB

Dr Avice M Hall BSc PhD MBE

Dr Yongju Huang MSc PhD

Dr David J Hughes MSc PhD

Dr Henrik Stotz MSc PhD

PhD students/projects

Dahlia Sidique: Effects of host resistance on interactions between the hemibiotrophic pathogens Leptosphaeria maculans and L. biglobosa (cause of phoma stem canker) in Brassica napus (oilseed rape).

Georgia Mitrousia: Understanding the durability of resistance against Leptosphaeria maculans (phoma stem canker) in oilseed rape.

Fay Newbery (with Prof Michael Shaw at University of Reading): Predicting effects of climate change on crop diseases accounting for adaptive change.

Steven Moloney: Interactions of Leptosphaeria maculans and L. biglobosa with fungicides on the host oilseed rape.

Current research projects

BBSRC-LINK: Understanding resistance to decrease risk of severe phoma stem canker on oilseed rape.

SAIN (Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network; www.sainonline.org/English.html) project (No. DC09-07): Addressing vulnerabilities and building capacity for adaptation of agriculture to climate change in China.

EU MARIE CURIE ACTIONS, Intra-European Fellowships (IEF)(Henrik Stotz) Durable Resistance.

Technology Strategy Board: Symptomless infection of barley; resistance breeding and integrated crop protection strategies (SIBLINGS).

Download this PDF document for a list of selected publications (PDF - 0.09 Mb).