I am a biologist with an interest in pathogens and how they affect plants. My undergraduate degree in Biology was undertaken at the University of York where I did a year working in industry at BASF in the crop protection field. This built my understanding in how important controlling plant pathogens are in agriculture and inspired me to conduct a research project on using bacteria as a biocontrol agent to control other pathogenic bacteria. Currently, I am doing a PhD that combines my interests of plant biology, microbial evolution and genetics, where I aim to discover how Ralstonia solanacearum differs across the world and how this plant pathogenic bacterium has changed throughout time.
What is Ralstonia solanacearum?
Ralstonia solanacearum is a bacterium than can infect over 200 different species of plants, including many important crops such as potatoes, tomatoes and bananas. This pathogen can also persist in the soil or water without the presence of plants for up to 2 -3 years, making it very difficult to control, and can easily transmit from these environmental reservoirs to agricultural environments causing severe disease outbreaks. Ralstonia solanacearum is found in every continent in the world, apart from Antarctica, making it a global threat for agriculture leading it to be listed as a quarantined pathogen in the EU.
Working in collaboration with FERA Science Ltd. we have a cultured a collection of around 400 strains of Ralstonia solanacearum spanning over 50 countries and a wide variety of hosts sampled from 1945 to 2018. This includes roughly 170 strains from the UK with fine scale geographic and temporal sampling during and between disease outbreaks. This project aims to discover the genetic and trait variation between the strains to determine how this bacterium differs across different countries as well how it has changed overtime. We also aim to look at the differences between environmental and agricultural samples to better understand disease transmission dynamics at a global scale. This will hopefully build our knowledge on how this pathogen has evolved and dispersed, helping to prevent it spreading in the future.