James Brown’s group studies the evolution of plant diseases, especially fungal diseases of crops and trees.
He is especially interested in natural selection operating in realistic situations, often on several traits: durable resistance in elite crop varieties, adaptation of pathogens to crops, and the challenges that intensification of agriculture presents to sustainable disease control.
Current projects in James’s lab include;
- Interactions between responses of wheat and barley to biotrophic and necrotrophic diseases (rust and mildew versus Septoria, blast and Ramularia)
- Remote sensing technology to improve selection for resistance to multiple diseases
- Evolution of pathogen insensitivity to fungicides
- The roles of genetic uniformity and climate change in epidemics
- Theory of the coevolution of plants and their parasites
He uses theoretical population genetics to understand the coevolution of plants and their parasites.
James has recently been extending ideas from crop breeding to controlling the ash dieback fungus and is researching trade-offs between responses of ash to dieback and insect pests, including emerald ash borer, and strategies for promoting natural selection of durable resistance of ash to dieback.
McMullan M., Rafiqi M., Kaithakottil G., Clavijo B. J., Bilham L., Orton E., Percival-Alwyn L., Ward B. J., Edwards A., Saunders D. G. O., Garcia Accinelli G., Wright J., Verweij W., Koutsovoulos G., Yoshida K., Hosoya T., Williamson L., Jennings P., Ioos R., Husson C., Hietala A. M., Vivian-Smith A., Solheim H., MaClean D., Fosker C., Hall N., Brown J. K. M., Swarbreck D., Blaxter M., Downie J. A., Clark M. D. (2018)The ash dieback invasion of Europe was founded by two genetically divergent individuals.Nature ecology & evolutionPublisher's version: 2397-334X
Orton E., Brasier C., Bilham L., Bansal A., Webber J., Brown J. (2018)Population structure of the ash dieback pathogen, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, in relation to its mode of arrival in the UK.Plant Pathology (67)Publisher's version: 0032-0862
Hehir J. G., Connolly C., O'Driscoll A., Lynch J. P., Spink J., Brown J. K. M., Doohan F., Mullins E. (2017)Temporal and spatial field evaluations highlight the importance of the presymptomatic phase in supporting strong partial resistance in Triticum aestivum against Zymoseptoria triticiPlant Pathology (67)Publisher's version: 1365-3059
The group welcomes enquiries from scientists interested in any of the areas of plant science they work on.