Prof James Brown

Project Leader
Crop Genetics

James researches the evolution of plant diseases to understand how pathogens adapt to plants, both in crops and natural populations, and how this knowledge can be exploited for disease control.

He is currently investigating the role of natural selection in a range of situations including fungicide insensitivity in powdery mildew, trade-offs between resistances to different types of fungal pathogens in cereals, and resistance of ash trees to dieback.

James’ research uses modelling techniques to investigate the co-evolution of plants and their parasites, involving trade-offs between disease resistance and other positive plant traits such as yield.

  • Identifying fungicide resistance genes within fungal populations such as powdery mildew
  • Trade-offs between disease resistance in plants and other positive traits
  • Understanding population structures of fungal populations and co-evolution with plants


There is a constant struggle between plants and their parasites: as plants evolve to become resistant to disease, parasites evolve to overcome that resistance. Consequently, crops in agriculture are exposed to a constantly changing population of different genotypes and species of parasites.

James Brown's group's research relates to the need to produce new crop varieties with elite standards of yield and quality and acceptable, all-round disease resistance. Much of their research concerns trade-offs between responses to different diseases and between disease resistance and other desirable traits, while researching processes by which plants and parasites coevolve to become adapted to one another.

The group also work on several diseases, as appropriate for the research in question. Most of their work is on fungal pathogens of cereals, especially powdery mildew of barley and wheat, septoria tritici blotch of wheat and ramularia leaf spot of barley. Their research on coevolution uses of mathematical and computer modelling.


Tel: 01603 450615

Continental controls needed to maintain fightback against tree diseases

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John Innes Centre scientists solve 60 year old Septoria mystery

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Link between drought tolerance and resistance to leaf spot resistance identified

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New research projects announced to help save UK forests, woods and trees

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Recent Publications

Orton E., Brasier C., Bilham L., Bansal A., Webber J., Brown J. (2017)

Population structure of the ash dieback pathogen, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, in relation to its mode of arrival in the UK

Plant Pathology 10.1111/ppa.12762 p12762

Publisher’s version: 10.1111/ppa.12762

Menguer P., Vincent T., Miller A. J., Brown J. K. M., Vincze E., Borg S., Holm P. B., Sanders D., Podar D. (2017)

Improving zinc accumulation in barley endosperm using HvMTP1, a transition metal transporter.

Plant Biotechnology Journal Plant Biotechnol J. 2017 Apr 24. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12749. [Epub ahead of print] pdoi: 10.1111/pbi.12749

Publisher’s version: 10.1111/pbi.12749

Orton E., Brown J. K. M., Rudd J. J. (2016)

Early molecular signatures of responses of wheat to Zymoseptoria tritici in compatible and incompatible interactions

Plant Pathology - p-

Publisher’s version: 10.1111/ppa.12633

Arraiano L. S., Brown J. K. (2016)

Sources of resistance and susceptibility to Septoria tritici blotch of wheat.

Molecular plant pathology 18 p276-292

Publisher’s version: 10.1111/mpp.12482

Mair W., Lopez-Ruiz F., Stammler G., Clark W., Burnett F., Hollomon D., Ishii H., Thind T. S., Brown J. K., Fraaije B., Cools H., Shaw M., Fillinger S., Walker A. S., Mellado E., Schnabel G., Mehl A., Oliver R. P. (2016)

Proposal for a unified nomenclature for target-site mutations associated with resistance to fungicides.

Pest management science 72 p1449-59

Publisher’s version: 10.1002/ps.4301

View All

James Brown

  • Dr Laetitia Chartrain Research Assistant
  • Rachel Burns Research Assistant
  • Dr Elizabeth Orton Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Corinne Arnold Postgraduate Student


For media enquiries, please contact the JIC communications team 01603 450962,

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