About Advancing Plant Health (APH)

The programme integrates research expertise from the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory, and aims to reveal new information regarding plant immunity, the mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis and symbiotic relationships and then to apply this knowledge to the development and deployment of new forms of disease resistance, growth promotion, and resilience to pests.

Feeding the world sustainably in the face of the climate emergency is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Currently, up to 30% of global crop yields are lost each year to pests and diseases, costing the world economy $540 billion annually. To tackle this issue, the Advancing Plant Health (APH) Institute Strategic Programme (ISP) through its four work packages is investigating the molecular mechanisms behind plant interactions with pathogens, pests, and beneficial microbes. By building upon recent discoveries in plant immune systems, genomics, and advanced bioimaging, the program aims to protect crops against diseases and parasites and enhance plant growth, resilience, and sustainable agricultural productivity.

One of the main focuses of the APH program is enhancing plant immunity to protect crops. The program is working towards understanding the multi-layered immune system of plants and how pathogens evade detection, with the aim of discovering novel sources of plant disease resistance and designing new disease resistance genes that can be deployed through precision breeding. Additionally, the program is investigating how pathogens and pests invade and colonize crops and suppress immunity.

In addition to protecting plants, the APH program is exploring beneficial interactions between microbes and plants. The program aims to develop microbial communities that can enhance plant growth and confer resistance to disease by exploring the diverse mechanisms of microbial consolidation of plant cells and tissues and their evolutionary relationships.

Finally, the program aims to deploy this knowledge to facilitate durable disease control. The APH program is working with industry and international collaborators to devise new strategies to combat emerging disease threats by deploying durable combinations of disease resistance genes in potato, rice, wheat, Brassica, and pea crops.

Overall, the APH program is providing a multi-faceted strategy for sustainably enhancing plant health and crop productivity based on a detailed understanding of plant-microbe/pest interactions. By addressing the most pressing needs of agriculture in consultation with industry, plant breeders, and growers, the program aims to have a major impact on ensuring global food security.