Tom O’Hara

Postgraduate Researcher Designing Future Wheat

Tom’s research aims to use resistance in crop wild relatives of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) to safeguard against wheat blast (Magnoporthe oryzae pathovar tritici).

The disease was first observed in Brazil in 1985, and has since spread to neighbouring countries, greatly limiting South American wheat production. In addition, the devastating outbreak in Bangladesh in 2016 poses a serious threat to South East Asia, notably India and China.

Tom will use contemporary strains of the wheat blast pathogen to screen crop wild relative wild diversity panels held at the John Innes Centre for resistance, using a high throughput seedling-based assay. Subsequently, using rapid gene cloning approaches developed at the John Innes Centre, including AgRenSeq, Tom will identify and clone several high effect resistance genes.

Ultimately, Tom’s research aims to transfer durable resistance to wheat blast into elite wheat cultivars via speed breeding, helping to secure wheat against wheat blast in the future.