NIAB EMR

NIAB EMR is a horticultural and agricultural research institute at East Malling, Kent in England, with a specialism in fruit and clonally propagated crop production.

 

NIAB EMR has a history dating back to 1913 when it was established by the fruit growing sector to address the many challenges faced by growers. Since its establishment, the team at East Malling have introduced wide-ranging advances to horticulture which have shaped the way produce is grown and supplied to the consumer.

 

Today, our mission is to conduct high-quality strategic and applied research in horticultural and environmental sciences, and to deliver knowledge, products and services that benefit public and private customers.


Plant science into practice.

Click here to visit NIAB EMR website.

Selected Staff and Students

Dr Helen Bates - Research Scientist (Molecular Biologist)

Research Interests

I am interested in plant-pathogen interactions at the molecular level, particularly control of gene expression and genome stability in pathogens. I have developed the use of nanopore long-read sequencing to resolve areas of the genome in both pathogens and plants  that are difficult to resolve with short-read technology, direct RNA seq on the nanopore to enable identification of splice variants, anti-sense transcripts and non-coding RNAs and using WIMP (What’s In My Pot) analysis to investigate microbial communities. 

 

Current Projects
2017-2021 – Mycoprotein 2.0 (BBSRC)

2018-2021 – Understanding the effects of light and temperature in Verticillium dahliae (BBSRC)

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Sophia Bellamy - CTP PhD Student (Pest & Pathogen Ecology)

Supervisors

Xiangming Xu (NIAB EMR) and Michael Shaw (University of Reading)

Project title

Biocontrol as a key component to manage brown rot disease on cherry.

 

Project description

This is a joint project with NIAB EMR and the University of Reading as part of the BBSRC’s collaborative training partnership (CTP) looking at biocontrol as a key component to manage brown rot on cherry.  Brown Rot, caused by Monilinia spp. is one of the most important diseases in stone fruits worldwide. NIAB EMR recently identified two microbes that significantly reduced sporulation of M. laxa under laboratory conditions. This project will investigate how to optimise the use of biocontrol products in practice, regarding suppressing sporulation on overwintered mummies and preventing infection of blossoms and fruit. In addition to quantifying the control efficacy, we are also studying the ecology of biocontrol organisms, particularly their survival in commercial orchards. This research will help assist in the development of management strategies for brown rot on stone fruit, integrating BCAs with other management practices based on our understanding of ecological characteristics of available BCAs.

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Dr Helen Cockerton - Research Leader (Quantitative Geneticist & Plant Pathologist)

Research Interests

My interests focus on understanding the genetic control of plant-microbe interactions and desirable plant traits. I am currently working on quantifying genetic associations between root architectural traits, phosphorus use efficiency and arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis in strawberry. Ultimately, this work will enhance our understanding of how below ground systems impact on strawberry fruit quality.

 

Additional interests include the identification of resistance loci and virulence factors associated with plant pathogens. Work on Verticillium wilt in strawberry has included the use of novel imaging techniques to obtain robust and objective phenotyping data. Using these tools in conjunction with genotypic information has allowed the identification of resistance loci that will be used in breeding disease resistant strawberry cultivars.

 

In particular I have developed an interest in working with powdery mildew an obligate pathogen of strawberry. So far, we have generated a draft genome sequence for the pathogen and identified a range of stable and resistant QTL in the host. Future work seeks to expand the resources available for this pathosystem in order to better understand the plant- pathogen interaction and assist the control of powdery mildew.

 

Selected current projects (as PI or researcher co-I)

2017-2021 – UV ROBOT (EU Interreg)

2018-2022 – Hop breeding in the 21st Century (Industry)

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Dr Richard Harrison - Director of Cambridge Crop Research

Research Interests

Research in my group at NIAB EMR focusses on understanding the genetic basis of interactions between plants and microbes. Key questions that we are addressing in the lab are focused around understanding, at a mechanistic level, how plants defend themselves against pathogen attack and over what evolutionary timescales these interactions occur. I am interested in the application of population genomics, using DNA sequence variation as a tool to understand the functional importance of different classes of pathogenicity genes and deploying this information in resistance breeding strategies. There are several ongoing BBSRC projects in this broad area accounting for the vast majority of research in the lab, often funded in collaboration with the international horticulture industry. Further work extends to structural and functional genomics of relatives of important plant pathogens, such as Fusarium venenatum, used to produce mycoprotein. The group, of around fifteen to twenty staff and students work both in the laboratory and as bioinformaticians. The objective of most of our work is to provide scientific knowledge to underpin the horticultural industry through pre-breeding and development of novel pathogen control strategies.

Selected current projects (PI)

2017-2021 – The nature of resistance to Neonectria ditissima in apple species (BBSRC) 

2017-2021 – An evolutionary approach to develop durable disease resistance to bacterial canker of cherry (BBSRC)

2017-2021 – Mycoprotein 2.0 (BBSRC)

2018-2021 – Understanding the effects of light and temperature in Verticillium dahliae (BBSRC)

richard.harrison@niab.com

Thomas Heaven - CTP PhD Student (Genetics, Genomics & Breeding)

Supervisors

Helen Cockerton (NIAB EMR) and Matthew Goddard (University of Lincoln)

Project title
Novel ways of managing tree crop fungal diseases: 
Using precision diagnostic technologies to tailor disease management strategies

Project description

Commercially grown apple cultivars are susceptible to a number of fungal pathogens, amongst the most serious are apple scab Venturia inaequalis and apple powdery mildew Podosphaera leucotricha. Accurate control, monitoring and forecasting requires precise disease diagnostics and an understanding of the diversity of pathogen populations in the field. We aim to generate the first genetic resources for apple powdery mildew and improve those available for apple scab. Both scab and mildew are highly host specific, we will use comparative genomics to identify the genetic basis of this host adaptation. Ultimately, we will design a diagnosis by sequencing method that has resolution to key pathogen characteristics including race and resistance to fungicides.

Rory Jones - PhD Student (Pest & Pathogen Ecology)

Supervisors

Michelle fountain (NIAB EMR), Paul Eady and Matthew Goddard (University of Lincoln)

Project title

The use of highly attractive yeast strains for controlling Drosophila suzukii (spotted wing drosophila).

 

Project description

This is a joint project with NIAB EMR and the University of Lincoln, funded by the AHDB, looking at using yeast in controlling Drosophila suzukii. Drosophila suzukii is a damaging pest of soft and stone fruit endemic to southeast Asia, that has recently spread around the globe being detected in the UK in 2012. Yeast are known to be attractive to D. suzukii and this project involves investigating the interactions between Drosophila and yeast and exploiting them in control strategies for this pest. Additionally, yeast communities on ripening fruit will also be investigated with the aim of developing a highly attractive and selective yeast bait that can be used in control strategies for this pest.

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Dr Charlotte Nellist - Group Leader (Durable Disease Resistance)

Research Interests

My research interests principally revolve around investigating and deploying durable disease resistance into economically important crops.  Underpinning this is the desire to understand the interaction between plants and pathogens. By using this information to study the mechanisms of resistance, it will advance our scientific knowledge to improve crop production in a sustainable way.

 

Selected current projects

2019-2020 – Deployment of durable, broad-spectrum resistance to Turnip mosaic virus into Brassica oleracea in sub-Saharan Africa (BBSRC/CONNECTED) - PI

2018-2022 – Investigating durable resistance to Phytophthora cactorum in strawberry and apple - Principle Supervisor of PhD Student Matteo Luberti

2018-2021 – Retaining the Ashes: The potential for ash populations to be restored following the dieback epidemic (BBSRC) - PI

2017-2021 – The nature of resistance to Neonectria ditissima in apple species (BBSRC) - Researcher Co-I

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Dr Matevz Papp-Rupar - Research Leader (Biocontrol Agents and Bio-Stimulants)

Research Interests

I am interested in the development of innovative, sustainable approaches to pathogen control in horticulture production systems and understanding the basic molecular and ecological mechanisms involved.

 

My current role at NIAB-EMRis applied and fundamental research of biocontrol agents and bio-stimulants to control apple canker (Neonectria ditissima), ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) and Phytophthora species on strawberry, raspberry (P. fragariae and P. cactorum) and oak (P. ramorum). I am also interested in ecological implications of biocontrol agents; efficacy of biocontrol across different biomes/growing practices; impact of biocontrol organisms and bio-stimulants on natural microbial communities (rhizosphere and phylosphere), plant physiology (yield, nutrient and water use) and plant immunity.

 

Selected current projects (as PI or co-I)

2017-2020 – The role of endophytes in affecting symptom development of European apple canker caused by Neonectria ditissima (BBSRC-LINK)

2017-2021 – Bio4safe: An innovative approach to enhance resource efficiency and safeguarding by using biostimulants and innovative sensors in horticulture (EU Interreg)

2018-2020 – Identification and mitigation of factors causing yield loss in recycled coir grown strawberries (EU Interreg)

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Fiona Wilson - Senior Research Scientist (Plant and Fungal Biotechnology)

Research Interests

My current area of research is focused on understanding controls of secondary metabolism in Fusarium venenatum with the aim of disabling production of deleterious secondary metabolites and generating improved strains for production of nutritionally enhanced mycoprotein.

My background is in plant molecular biology, genetic transformation and the use of in vitro methods enabling improvement in clonal crops.

Current Projects

2017-2021 – Mycoprotein 2.0 (BBSRC)

Click here to contact via email

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