Research Medal for John Innes Centre scientist
16 August 2010
Professor James Brown of the John Innes Centre, an Institute of BBSRC, has been awarded the Royal Agricultural Society of England Research Medal in recognition of his work to combat cereal diseases. The Research Medal is presented for work of outstanding merit carried out in the UK, which is proven or likely to be of benefit to agriculture. Professor Brown's work has been vital in protecting wheat production in the UK and is continuing to combat the threats crop diseases pose to UK food security.
Professor Brown was awarded the Research Medal for his invaluable work in the area of crop disease, in particular his pioneering work against Septoria tritici blotch in wheat. Regarded as one of the most serious crop disease in the UK, James' work has underpinned the breeding of resistant varieties to Septoria, radically improving the UK's ability to control this disease.
15 years ago there was very little resistance to Septoria in UK wheat, and breeders were struggling to produce resistant varieties. Recognising the severity of the problem, James and his group at the JIC focussed their research on looking for resistance genes. They found a number of potential resistance genes, but these were widespread across wheat varieties, and in many cases were associated with lower yields. This would have presented a significant problem to plant breeders, but the fundamental science James led, in close association with breeders and farmers, allowed several different sources of resistance to be combined into high yielding varieties suited to UK agriculture.
James Brown's work to control septoria tritici blotch combining excellent science with application to the problems facing farmers is seen as a model of how scientists and plant breeders are able to work together to understand complex crop diseases and produce effective solutions to them. His group is now applying a similar approach to the growing problem of Ramularia leaf spot in barley. This disease has emerged as a problem for barley producers in the last decade, and is now at a severe level in Scotland and Ireland and threatening to spread into England.
James is leading a project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Scottish Government's Directorate for Rural and Environment Research and Analysis, and the HGCA, that is looking to control the spread of the disease and will use the model of his Septoria work to allow breeders to increase Ramularia resistance in the UK's barley varieties. The aim of the project is to understand the disease more closely to provide ways of controlling its spread, and then long-term the research will help breeders develop barley varieties with increased Ramularia resistance.
Professor Brown's work on Septoria and Ramularia has been funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), BBSRC, HGCA, and the European Union and has been undertaken in collaboration with many wheat and barley breeding companies.
About the RASE
Since 1840, The Royal Agricultural Society of England has played a leading role in the development of British agriculture and a vibrant rural economy through the uptake of good science, the promotion of best practice and a coordinated, impartial approach to wide-ranging rural issues. Today the Society's work includes support for business and social welfare in rural communities, education, and world famous shows and events.
About the JIC
The John Innes Centre, www.jic.ac.uk, is an independent, world-leading research centre in plant and microbial sciences with over 800 staff. JIC is based on Norwich Research Park and carries out high quality fundamental, strategic and applied research to understand how plants and microbes work at the molecular, cellular and genetic levels. The JIC also trains scientists and students, collaborates with many other research laboratories and communicates its science to end-users and the general public. The JIC is grant-aided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.
BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:
- The Babraham Institute
- Institute for Animal Health
- Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
- Institute of Food Research
- John Innes Centre
- The Genome Analysis Centre
- The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
- Rothamsted Research
The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.