A 30-year research career based in industry, academia and the government, Rob has made major contributions to our understanding of herbicide selectivity in crops and weeds and in translating this work into biotechnological and crop protection applications.
In March 2014 Rob took up post as the Head of the School of Environmental and Natural Sciences at the University of Newcastle where he continues to direct personal research programmes in crop protection.
Rob is dedicated to discovering novel ways of controlling herbicide resistance in black-grass and developing new generations of agri-chemicals and advanced diagnostics for crop protection and plant health.
My scientific career has been focused on successfully finding ways of protecting our crops from pests and diseases, however, in recent years two serious issues have arisen: concerns about the environmental and health effects of modern pesticides and increasing resistance of pathogens to the pesticides we use.
The latter has been a problem in controlling fungal diseases affecting wheat. That’s why, just like the NHS, we are looking at alternatives with more emphasis on enhancing the health of crops rather than treating disease.
Working with a group of farmers and technologists through the Farmer Scientist Network we are comparing the effectiveness of synthetic and “biologic” products on different wheat varieties’ disease resistance, yield and quality. They work, rather like probiotics in human medicine, to strengthen the plant’s natural resistance. These are relatively new to the UK but likely to become widely available over the next few years.