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

  • Laura Sapelli: Understanding host resistance to improve control of light leaf spot on winter oilseed rape in the UK
  • James Fortune: Understanding interactions between fungal pathogens Leptosphaeria maculans (phoma stem canker) and Pyrenopeziza brassicae (light leaf spot) on Brassica napus (oilseed rape)
  • Diana Elena Bucur: Population dynamics of Pyrenopeziza brassicae under the Irish field conditions.

Current research projects

  • Innovate UK/BBSRC:  Integrated strategy to control Leptosphaeria pathogens on UK winter oilseed rape
  • Defra: Oilseed RapE Genetic Improvement Network (OREGIN)
  • Innovate UK/BBSRC: Strategies to increase durability of host resistance for effective control of phoma stem canker on oilseed  rape
  • Chadacre Agricultural Trust: Investigation of effects of weather conditions on timing of ascospore release for effective control of light leaf spot on winter oilseed rape in the UK
  • Felix Thornley Cobbold Agricultural Trust: Investigation of effects of weather conditions on timing of ascospore release for effective control of light leaf spot on winter oilseed rape in the UK

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