Simon Edwards 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 40 Faces Home Page.
Institution and country of residence
Harper Adams University
Professor of Plant Pathology
Area of expertise/study
I am Professor of Plant Pathology at Harper Adams University. I started at Harper Adams as a post-doctoral researcher. I was fortunate to secure grant funding and continued as a Research Fellow, Reader and finally Professor. I have spent most of my working life focussed on the epidemiology and control of Fusarium head blight. A disease complex usually dominated by the mycotoxin-producing species, Fusarium graminearum. Fusarium graminearum is a wonderful pathogen whose most impressive skills is the ballistic release of ascospores which accelerate at 870,000 g to travel at speeds of 35 metres/second, making it the fastest known living thing. The focus of my work shifted to minimising the levels of the associated fusarium mycotoxins, deoxynivalenol and zearalenone when legal limits for these mycotoxins in cereals and cereal products was introduced in 2006. This led to extensive dissemination activities to advise the cereal industry on Good Agricultural Practice to minimise mycotoxins. Helping industry is part of the job I have very much enjoyed. In recent years I have developed an MSc course in Plant Pathology. This is one of only a few available world wide and is an applied course to develop plant pathologists for the future.
About your early experiences in education
My education in biology started at an early age when after showing a keen interest in his microscope slide collection my Uncle Melvyn, a biology teacher, presented me with a microscope and a few slides for my birthday when I was about six. I can still remember my favourites – the leg of a fly (very hairy) and the mouthparts of a locust (grisly).
If you could solve one problem in plant pathology, what would it be?
Food security. We lose so much food both pre- and post-harvest. We cannot so easily control what happens in the field but we have more control over what can happen in store. If I could cure all storage rots that would help feed our ever growing population.
If you could solve one issue relating to inclusivity and diversity within the field of plant pathology what would it be?
To expand the availability of knowledge. Knowledge gives people power. As Albert Einstein stated “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” We must make information freely available to as many people as possible.
If you weren’t a plant pathologist, what would you be?
I never knew what I wanted to be, one reason I stayed in education. I knew it would be something in biology. I would have liked to be a forensic pathologist but I wasn’t clever enough to study medicine.