Nicola Cook

Postgraduate Researcher Designing Future Wheat

Nicola’s PhD project focuses around the problem of fungicide resistance within fungal pathogens of wheat and barley.

One of the quickest methods of pathogen control is the application of fungicides and these are used widely in agriculture to protect crops. However, successive applications of fungicides creates a greater selection pressure for the gain of fungicide resistance mutations.

Fungicide resistance is a major threat to pathogen control worldwide and could lead to total crop losses if left unchecked.

The problem of fungicide resistance is growing, both in agriculture and medicine, and is now comparable to that of antibiotic resistance with fungal pathogens becoming resistant to a range of different fungicides.

If controlling fungal pathogens with fungicides becomes ineffective it will mean increased prices of a wide variety of foods that we eat on a daily basis ranging from bread to fruit and vegetables and even beer.

One of the mechanisms which pathogens acquire fungicide resistance is through mutations within the fungicide target genes. Nicola’s PhD aims to develop a high throughput platform that is capable of monitoring the presence of these mutations within fungal populations from across Europe.

Nicola is using molecular biology and multiple next-generation sequencing techniques in order to develop this platform.