BSPP News 30 Spring 1997 - Online Edition

The Newsletter of the British Society for Plant Pathology
Number 30, Spring 1997

Profile of BSPP's President for 1997

The President of the British Society for Plant Pathology for 1997 is DrNigel Hardwick, who is currently leader of the Crop Disease Research Team at theCentral Science Laboratory (CSL), York.

Nigel was educated at Imperial College, London, where he obtained an uppersecond class degree in botany. During his final year he developed an interest inplant pathology and electron microscopy and stayed on to research for his PhD onthe fine structure of Uromyces appendiculatus in French bean. This wasthe first time ultrastuctural studies by transmission and scanning electronmicroscopy of plant pathogens had been undertaken in the UK. Unusually for thetime he had joint supervisors, Mr A D Greenwood, for the fine-structural workand Professor R K S Wood for the plant pathology.

Following University, his first job was as an extension plant pathologistwith the Government of the Republic of Zambia. One of the first questions he wasasked was why someone with a Ph.D. would wish to do extension plant pathology -a further indication that applied research is not accorded the value of pureresearch. He was first sent to Mt. Makulu Research Station, near Lusaka, beforebeing posted to Kabwe Research Station in the Central Province of Zambia. Hisfirst task was to build his laboratory, and at one time was supervising twobrick layers, three carpenters, a plumber and an electrician. He apparently doesa great line in septic tanks and soak-aways! He spent three years in Zambiainvestigating and advising on diseases of tobacco, maize and potatoes.

On returning to the UK in October 1973 he was fortunate to join theAgricultural Development and Advisory Service (now just called ADAS), theextension arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. His time inAfrica had convinced him that being confined to the laboratory bench doing pureresearch was not for him. Contact with farmers was important - plant pathologywith a human face, as he saw it. He spent two and a half years at the ADAS WyeSub-Centre in Kent gaining experience in the pathology of cereals, hops, top andsoft fruit, tobacco, vegetables and grass. In 1976, he was transferred toShardlow Hall in Derbyshire, which covered the East Midlands, where he spentfive years under the influence of Dr I F Storey, who instilled in him theimportance of weather on disease.

I first had the opportunity to work alongside Nigel in 1980 when hetransferred to ADAS Leeds as deputy to the Regional Plant Pathologist, Mr J E EJenkins, Chairman of the Cereal Pathology Group. It was during his time at Leedsthat Nigel developed an interest in diseases of oilseed rape and potatoes,writing a series of invaluable disease compendia on these crops and also onpulses for use by ADAS advisors. These Compendia can still be found in regularuse by many ADAS (and ex-ADAS!) advisors.

Nigel continued to take an active interest in the weather whilst based inYorkshire and, indeed, maintained daily records from his house in Bramhope,North Leeds. In true British style, it became a favourite topic of conversationin the department. In the winter months John Jenkins could occasionally be hearddeclaring how sunny it was when he left home from Collingham in the Vale ofYork. He always found it hard to accept Nigel's claim that he had had to fightthrough deep snow in Bramhope to get into the office in the morning. Nigel,always quick to defend himself, would pull out his "little black book"and proceed to advise us all of the latest precipitation data in Bramhope toprove it! It's an interesting, if not unusual, fact that Nigel is the third in aline of BSPP Presidents (Martin Wolfe, 1983 and Tom Preece, 1987) who have atsome time lived in the small village of Bramhope (pop. 3,500).

Whilst his busy career leaves little room for hobbies, he somehow finds timeto participate in a range of pursuits. He is an active member at his localchurch, he walks regularly in the Yorkshire Dales and Moors and is a keengardener. I remember that, whilst in Leeds, his lawn was the envy of theneighbourhood. His struggle for gardening perfection caused a few problems,however. One day his young son, Robert, took a liking for the slug pellets Nigelhad liberally spread around the borders. A hasty trip to hospital soon sortedhim out and apparently, according to his father, he has not suffered anylong-term ill-effects as a result. About a month later a newly built fish-pondgot Nigel into even deeper water when Robert fell in and Nigel had to fish himout. I suspect, like most fathers, as his son has grown up Nigel has oftenre-considered the wisdom of fishing him out!

Anyone who knows Nigel may be surprised to learn that he is a fan of modelrailways. At his home in Bramhope he had an entire bedroom devoted to aspectacular lay-out. The trains ran around the wall at waist height on amodified "dado" rail with a customised removable section behind thedoor. The "pièce de résistance" was how he had tackledthe problem of the fitted wardrobes. Instead of going around, he went straightthrough, with tiny ornate brass hinged doors at either end of the tunnel!

1992 saw major changes to ADAS, a move to an Executive Agency of MAFF anddemise of the discipline structure. Nigel became manager of the Crop ScienceTeam, with specialists also in entomology, soil science and agronomy. In 1996,the R&D Team had to leave its base at Leeds in order to save costs onaccommodation and was amalgamated with the Crops and Livestock Team at HighMowthorpe, the ADAS Livestock Research Centre near Malton on the YorkshireWolds. Later in 1996, an opportunity arose for him to join the Central ScienceLaboratory at its new facilities at Sand Hutton near York. He now leads the CropDisease Research Team, more familiarly known to the older generation as theDisease Assessment Team, responsible for the national surveys of diseases ofarable crops. The team also undertakes research on epidemiology, forecasting andcontrol of diseases of crop plants.

Nigel is a founder member of the Society, was a member of Council in 1986and served as the Society's Secretary for seven years from 1987-1993. He is alsochairman of the ISPP Extension Committee and Secretary of the OrganisingCommittee for the 7th International Congress of Plant Pathology which is to heldin Edinburgh in August 1998.

Nigel, always modest of his own ambitions and achievements, is quiet,unassuming and yet extremely efficient; his many years acting as secretary toBSPP on top of his busy ADAS schedule is testimony of this. To be closer to CSL,he recently moved house from Leeds to Malton, where he now lives with his wife,Alison, two sons, Iain and Robert, and their two West Highland White terriers,Tara and Dougal.

Martin McPherson

HRI, Stockbridge House