Professor James Brown

Group Leader Plant Health

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.

Selected Publications

See all of Professor James Brown's publications


We’re currently looking for a Postdoctoral Researcher to study the impact of globalisation on rust diseases of wheat – closes Sunday 12 January 2020.

The group also welcomes enquiries from scientists interested in any of the areas of plant science they work on.