NIAB TAG will be providing the latest advice and research in independent agronomy, crop genetics and data science with a focus on future developments and the role of technology, including:
- Innovation in new fungicide chemistry, new strategies and the role of SDHIs alongside the future role of EU legislation post-Brexit. Compare wheat fungicide programme options in the plots and understand the value of resistant varieties
- Revolutionising arable crop breeding - new tools and technologies have the potential to transform arable crop breeding and arable farming. From GM to gene-editing, superwheat to MAGIC – find out how wheat breeding research, and the use of new techniques, is improving the yield, efficiency and resilience of UK crop production (includes demonstration plots);
- The latest developments on yellow rust and field pathogenomics with the NIAB UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey team(includes demonstration plots);
- Impact of technology on crop management, including the use of modelling tools, big data, crowd-sourcing and precision farming techniques. Includes the launch of ActivSmart, an interactive agrochemical product comparison tool, and niabnetwork.com, delivering on-farm agronomy services using integrated data analytics and cloud-based decision support systems;
- Plant disease research and new diagnostic techniques in oilseed rape and field beans (includes demonstration plots);
Staff include NIAB TAG regional agronomists (Andrew Watson, Richard Overthrow, Patrick Stephenson, Steve Cook), variety specialists (Simon Kightley, Clare Leaman), crop agronomy specialists and advisors (Bill Clark, Stuart Knight, John Cussans), soil management and farming systems scientists (Ron Stobart, Dr Mark Stalham, Dr Nathan Morris, Dr Lydia Smith), plant breeders and crop geneticists (Dr Alison Bentley, Dr Phil Howell, Dr Fiona Leigh, Dr Eric Ober) and plant pathologists (Dr Jane Thomas, Dr Sarah Holdgate, Dr Tom Wood).
NIAB Commercial Technical Director, Bill is a plant pathologist by training, with extensive experience in plant biology and applied plant science and a special interest in knowledge transfer. His expertise spans both horticultural and arable crop pathology and during the last 20 years, almost exclusively cereal disease control. He is a prominent public speaker on agricultural issues and has previously been Director of Broom’s Barn Research Centre (the UK’s national sugar beet research centre in Suffolk) and National Cereal Pathologist for ADAS.
Patrick is NIAB TAG’s Northern Regional Agronomist. A key aspect of his role is to ensure that members, particularly in the north, continue to benefit from the wealth of technical information and advice that NIAB TAG has to offer. An award-winning independent arable advisor, he is well-known throughout the region for his work on crop production and farm business management. He has over 25 years’ experience as an advisor, and was awarded Britain’s Agronomist of the Year 2001 by Crops Magazine and National Arable Advisor of the Year in 2007 by Farmers Weekly.
NIAB TAG’s Southern Regional Agronomist, Steve is also an independent agronomist and senior partner with Hampshire Arable Systems. In addition to his role at NIAB TAG, providing strategic agronomy advice and information to the membership, he has over 40 farmer agronomy clients covering over 12,000 ha, mainly in Hampshire, Surrey and Wiltshire. Prior to becoming an agronomist, he studied at Nottingham University and Harper Adams, and more recently he has studied for the BASIS Diploma in Agronomy, successfully completing it in 2013.
Richard is NIAB TAG’s Western Regional Agronomist, working with farmer members with the provision of technical services and strategic advice, alongside the management of NIAB’s agronomy research programme in the west and south-west of the UK, and development of knowledge transfer activities. An experienced arable advisor, Richard is regularly consulted for advice and opinion by the farming press. A graduate in Applied Biology (Crop Protection) he has spent his entire career in independent agronomy research, initially with the newly formed Cotswold Cereal Centre, then helping to launch and develop the Arable Research Centres which, through mergers including via The Arable Group, is now part of NIAB TAG.
Dr Alison Bentley
NIAB’s Director of Genetics and Breeding since 2016 Alison also leads NIAB’s trait genetics research programme. A graduate in agricultural science at the University of Sydney, with a PhD characterising the genetic structure of pathogen populations associated with Australian wheat production, Alison moved to NIAB in 2007 to take up a position in the wheat pre-breeding team with a specific emphasis on characterising the control of flowering time, a key adaptive trait. Alison also contributed to the synthetic wheat program, particularly the exploitation of novel genetic diversity for wheat improvement. She has a strong interest in the genetic control of complex traits and in the application of genomics towards the breeding of high yielding, climate resilient wheat.
Dr Phil Howell
Phil has been a pivotal part of NIAB’s pre-breeding group since 2007, working on all major pre-breeding projects including the flagship wheat resynthesis programme. Since graduating from the University of Cambridge in 1992, he has almost 25 years’ experience in crop genetics and breeding, working on oilseed and cereal crops in both the public and private sector. Prior to joining NIAB, he spent ten years working within Syngenta’s wheat breeding programme, including five years as their senior UK wheat breeder with several successful varieties to his name. His wealth of practical experience and credibility amongst commercial peers has helped to cement NIAB’s position carrying out pre-competitive breeding research.
Dr Fiona Leigh
Fiona is a senior research scientist in NIAB’s Genetics and Breeding team at Cambridge. With over 20 years’ experience of characterising genetic diversity of crop plants using molecular markers, Fiona is now part of the pre-breeding team, capturing diversity from wheat relatives in order to augment the traits available to the wheat breeding community.
Richard is a research scientist in NIAB’s Genetics and Breeding team at Cambridge. He focuses on pre-breeding, working on projects aimed at providing breeders and researchers with advanced and diverse breeding lines. Richard has worked at NIAB for over 15 years and is responsible for many of the crossing activities that the organisation undertakes. He played a key role in generating the MAGIC wheat populations and more recently he has been instrumental in capturing novel genetic diversity through the development of synthetic hexaploid wheat.
Dr Emma Wallington
Emma is the transformation programme leader at NIAB with over 20 years’ experience in molecular biology supporting construct-making, vector development and analysis of transgenic plants within academia and industry. She is responsible for the development and progression of internal and collaborative academic research activities and also the contract service provision for external customers, which currently includes wheat, barley, rice and OSR transformation.
Dr Juno McKee
Juno is Head of Crops and Agronomy Business Development and is responsible for a range of projects that involve networking with diverse stakeholders delivering services related to business, technical and educational advancement. Her scientific background is in the breeding systems of natural plant populations and she signed up to a career in the agricultural industry in 1995 when she joined NIAB. She has held many different roles at NIAB leading business development, management and technical co-ordination activities across a number of our plant varieties and seeds services. Juno also obtained an MBA during this time and was lucky enough to be awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship on Adding Value in Wheat Chains in 2003.
Andrew is the NIAB TAG Eastern Regional Agronomist involved with technical services to members in the East of England. His background is independent agronomy with 25 years’ experience across Norfolk and Suffolk. He served as the chairman of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) for four years, as well as director for nutritional and legislative affairs.
Dr Jane Thomas
Head of Plant Pathology and Field Crops Research at NIAB Jane is a plant pathologist by training, with research interests in pathogen diagnostics, evaluating cultivar resistance and integrated disease management. She has expertise across a range of arable, horticultural and forage crops, with a focus on oilseed and pulses. In addition to her role leading plant pathology, she has responsibility for NIAB’s crop variety specialisms and associated research.
Dr Tom Wood
Tom works as part of the pathology group at NIAB as a molecular plant pathologist. He manages a range of research activities and commercial trials, with a broad interest in plant pathology, crop improvement and developing DNA based diagnostic strategies for plant pathogen detection. His current work focuses on pathogens affecting oilseed rape, especially Verticillium longisporum, and also the genetic improvement of faba bean (Vicia faba).
Dr Sarah Holdgate
Sarah is a cereal pathologist focusing on diseases of cereal crops and the improvement of crops through plant breeding. She manages NIAB’s cereal pathology research projects, including the UKCPVS, which focuses on the monitoring and characterisation of cereal pathogen populations, and has extensive knowledge on the wheat-yellow rust pathosystem through both her current post and previous work at the breeding company RAGT. Sarah also leads an AHDB-funded project on the characterisation of novel isolates of Zymoseptoria tritici and is co-leader on other plant pathology projects at NIAB, including the development of field pathogenomics for surveillance of yellow rust in collaboration with the John Innes Centre and the Earlham Institute. Prior to her position at NIAB, Sarah was the Plant Breeding Pathologist at RAGT Seeds Ltd, where she managed the European Cereal Pathology Support Group.
Dr Nathan Morris
NIAB TAG’s Farming Systems and Soils Specialist Nathan studied for a PhD in Plant Sciences at the University of Reading looking at establishing arable crops in UK cereal stubbles using strip tillage. He is actively involved in NIAB TAG’s knowledge exchange and farmer training activities, so his research reaches end users rapidly. His particular interests and expertise include developing farming systems to improve soil structure and stability whist maintaining crop productivity. Nathan is a full member of The British Society of Soil Science and the International Fertiliser Society.
Dr Mark Stalham
Mark is a Senior Research Associate at NIAB CUF. His expertise lies mainly in irrigation scheduling and management, control of common scab and soil cultivation and is currently leading AHDB Potatoes-funded and commercial projects on soil management. He regularly conducts training courses and seminars on the transfer of science into practical solutions for the potato industry.