Julie Flood is one of our ’40 Faces of Plant Pathology’
BSPP members can be found in 51 different countries, with 30% of members based in countries outside of the UK. As part of the BSPPs 40th anniversary, we asked our membership to describe some things about themselves, what plant pathology challenges they would most like to see solved, and what could improve the world of plant pathology in terms of inclusivity. Click here to return to the 40 Faces Home Page.
Institution and country of residence
Senior Plant Pathologist
Area of expertise/study
I have worked as a plant pathologist for over 40 years and am proud to be a Founder Member of the BSPP. My main area of interest has been in the study of vascular wilt diseases (Verticillium and Fusarium) particularly of tropical perennial crops such as coffee, cocoa and palms but I have also worked on other major diseases of these crops such as those caused by species of Phytophthora and Ganoderma. In recent years, I have become increasing interested in the wider aspects of plant health including the importance of plant health in food security, in bio-security and trade. I started as a laboratory-based scientist but have realized over many decades that seeing and understanding the problem in the field is essential as is understanding more about the producer who has to manage the problem!
About your early experiences in education
At school, I was always interested in biology particularly in plant biology. My A level biology teacher had trained as plant pathologist and she encouraged my interest in the subject and coupled with a farming background – my course was set. It illustrates the profound influence teachers can have on their pupils.
If you could solve one problem in plant pathology, what would it be?
The problem I would like to solve is the lack of adoption of management practices by smallholder farmers. This is a global problem. We have made huge technical advances in understanding the host /pathogen interaction-in the genetics and in the biochemistry and can offer a wide range of integrated practices to improve crop management but where we have made much less progress is getting smallholders to actually adopt these practices. Until we can improve uptake of these practices, significant crop losses with remain. This translates to lower yields, less incomes for producers and a failure to improve their livelihoods
If you could solve one issue relating to inclusivity and diversity within the field of plant pathology what would it be?
The problem I would like to solve is encouraging more women into science especially those from poor backgrounds. Even in the UK, many women do not opt to learn science. Why? Is it seen as being too difficult? yet, scientific training can help improve key life skills including how to understand and analyse data. When I started my career, most plant pathologists were men although there were some notable exceptions such as Professor Lilian Hawker; they were strong role models but they were few in number. Things have changed over 40 years with many more women visible across all sectors of society including within science but we cannot be complacent. We must continue to promote women scientists as the role models for future generations. Through our educational programmes and outreach schemes, the BSPP is in a strong place to help address some of these challenges -promoting science generally and promoting science as a career for all
If you weren’t a plant pathologist, what would you be?
From a very young age, I always wanted to be a scientist, and from secondary school, I chose the path of plant pathology but if I had not become a plant pathologist I would have probably taken some other scientific path such as microbiology or forensic science. However, I also have a love of history and one of my favourite introductory lectures I used to give to students at Bristol was about examples of how plant diseases had altered the course of history