BSPP President

Prof. Nicola Spence

Professor Nicola Spence is Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer and is the Head of the National Plant Protection Organisation for the UK. She is an expert in plant health and international plant trade and was previously the Head of Plant Health and Chief Scientist at the Food and Environment Research Agency.

Nicola is an experienced research scientist and has worked on virus diseases of horticultural crops in the UK and internationally. She is a Visiting Professor at Harper Adams University, a member of Court at the University of York and a Trustee of The Yorkshire Arboretum.

She has a BSc in Botany from the University of Durham, an MSc in Microbiology from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD in Plant Virology from the University of Birmingham.

The Chief Plant Health Officer

The role of the Chief Plant Health Officer involves advising ministers, industry and others about the risks posed by plant pests and diseases, and ensuring that measures are in place to manage those risks and minimise their impact, as well as leading the operational response in the event of a disease outbreak. Although plant health is a devolved matter; the CPHO co-ordinates the UK response to European and International plant health matters and takes the lead on national plant health emergency response.

Key recent actions have included: development of a prioritised plant health risk register to achieve better pest risk prioritisation and management; and development and testing a plant health contingency plan to achieve better preparedness and control response. Other priority actions include improving public access to plant and tree health information by developing a digital information portal to provide comprehensive plant health information. There is an urgent need to address key skills shortages in plant health and Nicola is responsible for a plan to identify key education and training opportunities and develop career pipeline for plant health.

Tel:+44 (0) 1904 641000

Address:Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Foss House, 1-2 Peasholme Green, Kingspool, York, YO1 7PX

BSPP President-Elect and Chair of the Fellowship Committee

Prof. David B. Collinge

David B Collinge is professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Copenhagen, where he has worked since 1987. He is also on the board of DSPS – the tiny Danish Society for Pests and Diseases.

After a BSc (Hons) and PhD in genetics from Liverpool and Newcastle Upon Tyne, he moved first to Arhus University and subsequently to the (then) John Innes Institute in Norwich where his research interests on defence mechanisms in plants were kindled. This research interest led to many discoveries on the roles of different components of defences ranging from antimicrobial proteins to NAC transcription factors and CRK receptor-like protein kinases – and H2O2 – the DAB method. The potential application of that knowledge has led to efforts in explaining the means that biotechnological approaches, especially transgenic can be used to provide plant protection. Wiley published his book on this in 2016 and he is active in the public debate in Denmark.

In the context of two Marie Curie ITNs, the research group now focusses on the nature and biology of endophytes with the applied aspect of developing novel biological control agents for disease and abiotic stress tolerance.

Tel:+45 35 33 33 56

Address:Microbial Ecology and Biotechnology, Thorvaldsensvej 40, 2. sal, 1871 Frb. C, Bygning 70, Building: 70-2-B226

BSPP Vice-President and Chair of the Travel Committee

Prof. Robert Jackson

Rob Jackson is a Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading. He has more than 25 years’ experience working on plant pathology problems. Research topics include the study of bacterial pathogenesis, most recently in tree pathology studying Horse Chestnut and Oak; the role of surfactants in bacterial motility and biocontrol; the identification and characterisation of bacteriophage for biocontrol; and analysis of how bacteria can kill aphids. He collaborates widely in both the UK and globally, and has delivered teaching and research seminars in diverse locations abroad. He has previously served BSPP as an elected board member and was involved in developing the outreach role. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Akureyri, Iceland, currently sits on the Action Oak Research & Monitoring sub-committee and serves as Senior Editor for Molecular Plant Pathology.

Tel:+44 (0) 118 378 8892

Address:School of Biological Sciences, Earley, Reading RG6 6AS

Vice President

Prof. Gail Preston

Prof. Gail Preston is a Lecturer in Plant-Microbe Interactions, Director of the BBSRC-funded Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership at the University of Oxford and Deputy Director of the University of Oxford’s Doctoral Training Centre.

She developed a fascination for plant pathology while studying Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, where she was encouraged to read E. C. Large’s classic (and highly recommended) history of plant pathology “The Advance of the Fungi” and introduced to the rapidly emerging field of molecular plant pathology. She studied for her doctorate under the inspiring mentorship of Prof. Alan Collmer at Cornell University, where she began to ask questions about the biology of plant pathogens that still inform her research today. How do environmental factors regulate pathogenicity and virulence mechanisms? How do pathogens manipulate the microenvironment inside host tissues? How does the environment inside and outside plants affect disease development?

She returned to the UK to study microbial gene function in the plant environment and in 2001 she was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. She now divides her time between interdisciplinary research into molecular plant-microbe interactions and supporting the career development of early career researchers.

Tel:+44 (0) 1865 275132 (Plants)


Dr Trisna Tungadi

My main interests are in the biology of insect crop pests and plant-virus-vector interactions. In particular on how findings from the lab can be translated and applied in the field to benefit farmers and growers alike. My current work is a BBSRC-funded project where my role is to investigate the biology and behavior of the spotted wing Drosophila, D. suzukii. D. suzukii is a major pest for soft and stone fruit production. Prior to joining NIAB EMR, I did my PhD with John Carr at the University of Cambridge. My previous research was focused on investigating how a plant virus manipulates the behavior of its insect vector, the aphids and how this may facilitate virus transmission. Lastly, I am a passionate about capacity building. I am actively involved to organise an annual molecular biology laboratory training workshops for African agricultural researcher in Cambridge and Benin Republic.

Tel:01732 523734

Address:NIAB, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0LE UK


Prof Mahmut Tör

Having grown up in rural Turkey, it was a natural choice for me to study entomology and plant pathology for my degree at Cukurova University, in Turkey’s largest agricultural department. When I came to the UK for an MSc and PhD in plant pathology at Wye College, University of London, I became fascinated by the then new area of molecular biology of plant diseases. Since that time, I have developed my career in molecular host-pathogen interactions, with particular interest in oomycete pathogens. Over the years I have worked at universities in both Turkey and the UK, including London, Akdeniz (in Antalya, Turkey) and Warwick, and now research and lecture in plant and microbial biology at the University of Worcester. In addition to fundamental research, I have also been successfully involved in translational work for breeding companies to search for markers of pest resistance using new genome technologies.

Tel:+44 (0) 1905 542360

Address:National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit, University of Worcester, Henwick Grove, Worcester WR2 6AJ, UK

Programme secretary

Dr Eric Boa

I eventually got to plant pathology after completing a B.Sc. in Botany at the University of Aberdeen in 1975. An enjoyable four years at Leeds allowed me to complete my PhD on ash canker under the inspiring tutelage of Tom Preece. Then I headed East, for six years in Bangladesh and bamboo blight, courtesy of the Overseas Development Administration. From there I followed in the footsteps of quite a few others, completing two years of clove disease in Indonesia, again with ODA.

I thought I had exhausted the worlds never-heard of diseases but more excitement was in store when I joined NRI in 1991 and began to work on woody legume diseases in Central America. Gliricidia little leaf leapt out at me and Jill Lenn on day one of our first field trip and there began a long fascination with phytoplasma diseases.

By 1995 I decided that a change was needed (and also a slightly shorter journey to work) and was kindly accepted by the then International Mycological Institute, now CAB International. I had the privilege of leading an increasingly broad range of projects in terms of location, host and theme. I had already begun to straddle the divide between natural and social sciences in 1993 and in 1997 I was fortunate to meet with Jeffery Bentley, an agricultural anthropologist. This fruitful collaboration lasts to this day, sustained by an increasing flow of projects that target extension services and farmers as much as the plant diseases themselves.

I have worked with bamboo for rural development and also wild edible fungi but my main passion and interest now is the Global Plant Clinic. We range far and wide, combining expert laboratory diagnosis in all pest groups with new extension methods (Going Public) and, perhaps the most significant innovation, mobile or community plant clinics. With schemes in Bolivia, Uganda, Bangladesh and Nicaragua we are showing how good science can better serve the everyday needs of poor farmers in developing countries. The is important since the GPC is an alliance of CAB International, Rothamsted Research and the Central Science Laboratory and involves different organisations overseas who run the mobile clinics.

In a long and varied career that includes being (still) one of the founding editors of New Disease Record I am excited by the wider prospects for plant pathology and for improving access to plant health care. Therein lies the demand for more science and quality research to solve the never-ending stream of new diseases that arise and familiar ones that are neglected. Bring them on!

Address:Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ

Membership secretary

Megan Richardson

I am currently studying for my PhD at UWE Bristol, investigating Cocoa Swollen Shoot Disease pathogenesis and insect vector viral retention.

Elected Board Members 2018-2020

Social Media Manager

Prof. Pietro Spanu

For many years I have been a member of the BSPP. In this time, I have enjoyed many of its activities: the conferences, the outreach, the sponsorship of my students at Imperial College. I started off working on mycorrhizae as an undergrad research student, but moved early on to plant disease for my PhD. Over the past decade, I devoted myself to researching cereal powdery mildews applying emergent genomics to understanding these fascinating and important diseases. I have worked in leading research universities (Basel, Oxford, Imperial) where I could combine my research with the education mission in ideal conditions. My aspiration as a member of the BSPP board is to support an integrated approach to plant pathology that is key to an effective crop protection and food security in the years ahead. It is now time to give something back to this great community by serving on the BSPP Board.

Tel:+44 (0)20 7594 5384

Address:Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK

Publicity Officer

Dr Phil Taylor

Philip Taylor graduated with a first in Plant Science (Wye College, 1982) and a PhD (JIC, UEA) on downy mildew of peas. This led to two plant path/molecular post-docs and a 5 year teaching post at the University of Hull investigating the fundamentals of host pathogen interaction.

However he left to run a large farm with the intention of setting up a centre for the growth of GM crops for industry (which stalled due to the moratorium on GM crops). As a farmer he remained active in plant pathology with chemical field trials and experimental crops and was on the NFU working party for biotechnology and GM crops. He took an MSc in science communication in 2007.

He started at CABI in 2010 and as training manager has produced training material in basic diagnostics, he has trained in over 16 countries (improving the food security of these nations) and at BSPP sponsored events for post-graduates in UK. His experience is unique; a combination of understanding practical farming and plant pathology.

Tel:+44 (0)1491 829069

Address:CABI, Bakeham Lane, Egham, Surrey, TW209TY, UK

Elected Board Members 2019-2021

Dr Vardis Ntoukakis

Vardis Ntoukakis studied Plant Sciences at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and received his PhD degree in Plant Biochemistry from the University of California Riverside. He worked at top UK institutions, as a research fellow at the Sainsbury Laboratory and the John Innes Centre, and as Associate Professor at the University of Warwick. His track record includes publications in high impact journals for aspects of plant-microbe interactions, biochemistry, and proteomics. As recognition of his research in plant signalling cascades, he was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and more recently appointed as theme leader at the Warwick Centre for Integrative Synthetic Biology (WISB). His laboratory addresses the fundamental questions of how plant cells transduce receptor activation to downstream signalling in order to express a subset of genes and respond appropriately to pathogen infection. They also take advantage of strategies employed by plant pathogenic microbes to create tools for synthetic biology.

Tel:+44 (0)2476 151920

Address:Life Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL

Education Secretary

Dr Nik Cunniffe

Nik Cunniffe is a University Senior Lecturer in Mathematical Biology at the Department of Plant Sciences in the University of Cambridge, and a College Lecturer and Official Fellow in Natural Sciences at Girton College.

He obtained a BA in Mathematics and an MPhil in Computer Speech and Language Processing, both from the University of Cambridge. He then worked for a few years in technology, developing efficient algorithms for internet search engines, before returning to studying for an MSc in Applied Mathematics in 2003 at the University of Bath. This involved a project at Rothamsted Research – supervised by Frank van den Bosch and Keith Davis – which initially sparked his interest into how mathematics can help understand crop disease. This interest continued with a PhD in Cambridge at the Department of Plant Sciences – supervised by Chris Gilligan – on modelling small-scale fungal dynamics and biological control. He has stayed in Plant Sciences ever since.

He teaches mathematical biology on a number of courses, and he and his group research mathematical models of plant disease, particularly large-scale stochastic models of spatial spread, how controls can be optimised, and models including an evolutionary component (e.g. fungicide resistance). He is also a Senior Editor of Phytopathology, a Section Editor of Tropical Plant Pathology.

Added May 2019

Tel:+44 (0)1223 333954

Address:Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EA

Invited to attend board meetings by invitation (not Board members)

Senior Editor, Plant Pathology

Prof. Matthew Dickinson

Matt studied for his PhD in the Virus Research Department at the John Innes Centre in Norwich before moving to the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry in Canberra for three years as a research fellow to work on the cereal rust fungi. He then returned to the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre to work on resistance genes in tomato against Cladosporium fulvum before taking up his current appointment in 1992 as a lecturer in molecular plant pathology at the University of Nottingham. With the rust fungi remaining his primary area of interest, particularly the molecular basis of pathogenicity and the molecular genetics of the cereal rust fungi, he is also involved in a number of other projects on plant pathogenic fungi and also the Phytoplasmas, both at Nottingham and in collaborations particularly with IACR-Rothamsted. Matt joined the BSPP in the early 1990’s and has been to many of its Conferences over the years. 

Tel:+44 (0)115 951 3236

Fax:+44 (0)115 951 6334

Address:School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK

Editor in Chief, Molecular Plant Pathology

Prof. Ralph Dean


Ph. D., 1986 University of Kentucky
B.S., 1980 University of London, Imperial College, England.


The Dean lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms by which fungal plant pathogens recognize, invade and suppress host defense mechanisms. Dr. Dean’s research program primarily focuses on Magnaporthe oryzaethe causal agent of rice blast disease. Worldwide, this disease is estimated to kill enough rice annually to feed over 60 million people. Much work hascentered on the signaling pathways, particularly cAMP in regulating the initiation and development of appressorium formation, a specialized cell required by M. oryzaeand many other pathogenic fungi for attachment to and penetration of host tissues. Following completion of the genome sequence and deep transcriptional profiling, his research has focused on functional and post genomic approaches to develop a systems view of fungal pathogenesis.  Four major projects involving M. oryzae are currently ongoing in the Dean laboratory and include 1. Characterization of small RNA and gene silencing mechanisms in regulating infection development and host –pathogen interactions. 2. Interrogation of post-translational protein modifications (phosphorylation and ubiquitination) during infection, 3. Identification and characterization of effector proteins,and 4. Comparative genome analysis of foliar and rooting infecting members of the Magnaporthacae. This project involves comparison of the genomes and gene content of M. oryzae with closely related species Gaemanonomyces graminis tritici and M. poae.


Dr. Dean teaches PP707 Plant-Microbe Interactions every Spring, which is co-taughtwith Dr. Carbone. Dr. Dean’s section covers the following topics: 1. Conceptual framework of plant immunity, 2. Effectors and effector delivery systems, 3. Effector recognition, 4. Biotrophic and necrotrophic interactions, 5. Hypersensitive response and programmed cell death, 6. Systemic acquired resistance, 7. Small RNA and disease, and 8. Secondary metabolites and toxins.

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Tel:+1 919 513-0020

Address:Center for Integrated Fungal Research, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA

Senior Editor, New Disease Reports

Dr Gerard Clover

Gerard Clover, RHS Head of Plant Health, is responsible for managing the RHS’s team of plant pathologists and entomologists and for developing the Society’s research programme to identify and control pests and diseases, undertake surveillance and share knowledge with members.

He obtained his BSc (Hons) from the University of Bristol and his PhD from Rothamsted Research / University of Nottingham before working as a post-doctoral scientist in Defra’s Food and Environment Research Agency. Prior to joining the RHS in 2013 he managed the New Zealand Plant Health & Environment Laboratory, the government reference laboratory for plant pests and diseases, and led the development of phytosanitary policy for imported plants.

His personal area of expertise is the detection, characterisation and management of virus and virus-like diseases. He is the supervisor of a CASE student with the University of Cambridge who is investigating the interaction of virus infection and plant-associated insects. He is also the supervisor of an MRes student with Royal Holloway who is seeking to identify the most important pests and diseases affecting UK gardens. He has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles and is Senior Editor for the journal New Disease Reports. He is a member of the board of the British Society for Plant Pathology and the Association of Applied Biologists’ virology committee.

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Tel:+44 (0) 20 3176 5800

Address:The Royal Horticultural Society, 80 Vincent Square, London, SW1P 2PE

Newsletter Editor

Dr Jennifer Hodgetts

Jennifer Hodgetts is a post-doctoral researcher at the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), formerly Central Science Laboratory (CSL), in York. Fera is a government research organisation and an executive agency of Defra.

After a BSc (Hons) in Biochemisty and Microbiology (Staffordshire University) and an MSc in Molecular Biology (Staffordshire University), she undertook a PhD on the taxonomy and diagnostics of phytoplasmas at the University of Nottingham linked with CSL. This project had an applied emphasis and used a taxonomic approach to develop new diagnostic tools which have now been implemented in the labs at Fera.

Her current position as a molecular plant pathologist primarily focuses on the development of novel diagnostic tools principally for plant and insect pathogens, but also includes DNA barcoding, recombinant protein work and plant resistance screening.

Tel:+44 (0)1775 715 000

Address:Elsoms Seeds Ltd., Pinchbeck Road, Spalding, Lincolnshire, PE11 1QG, UK

Webmanager and Data Controller

Dr William Kay

I am a PhD student currently working work under the supervision of Professor Sarah Gurr at the University of Exeter. My project surrounds chitin/PAMP triggered immunity (PTI) in wheat and looks to improve yields under biotic or abiotic stress.

I was elected to the BSPP as web manager in January 2014. I have good experience in web development and hope to use these skills to help BSPP maintain a modern and highly functional web presence. I was also the recipient of a BSPP summer bursary in 2011 which I spent with Dr Richard Cooper at the University of Bath.

When not in the greenhouse or the lab, I like to spend my time cooking, walking, watching films, playing sports such as cricket, squash and 5-a-side football (badly) and also going camper-vanning around England and Europe.

Address:Biosciences, Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QD

Society Administrator

Dr Jennie Brierley

I have a part-time research position at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee.  My main research interests are developing the use of molecular diagnostic techniques for the detection and quantification of seed and soil-borne potato pathogens: both as a research tool to investigate disease epidemiology, and in supporting the management of potatoes by quantifying disease risk. At present I am focusing on the effect of crop management practices, in particular, the effect of soil organic matter content on the introduction and persistence of pathogens through a crop rotation.

Policy and Publicity Officer

Dr Rosalind Noble

A fascination with plants, fostered by fantastic school teachers lead me onto Biology (BSc Hons) at Sheffield University. Exploring crop biotechnology, plant defence signalling pathways and parasitic interactions including Striga hermonthica on maize, coupled with a summer placement working on the blood phase of the Malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum, motivated me to follow this interest at Imperial College London. There, while studying ‘Integrated Crop Pest and Disease Management’ (MRes), I undertook projects investigating a Zambian leaf blight outbreak (Exserohilum turcicum) and Barley powdery mildew (Blumeria graminis f.sp. hordeii) pathology.

This introduction to fungal pathogens of crops highlighted the importance of plant pathology to food production. As a student at Rothamsted Research, I gained a doctorate studying Zymoseptoria tritici – focussing on the stealth mode of this fungal infection of wheat in Jason Rudd’s lab. The highlight being the discovery and exploration of Z. tritici LysM genes, in collaboration with Bart Thomma at Wageningen University.

Since then, studying science education at Goldsmiths University and working in primary and secondary schools has highlighted the importance of engaging children and young adults in science. Inspiring them to look at the world around them, discover and learn. I’m also keenly interested in sustainable agricultural methods, having spent time working with agronomists and currently living close to farmers who represent contrasting approaches to food production and land management in the UK.