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University of Warwick

UOA 16 - Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK UoA 16 – RA5A

 

1          OVERVIEW AND DEVELOPMENTS SINCE 2001

 

  • New University Department formed April 2004.
  • Eight new appointments driving change from Defra/BBSRC sponsored Institute to research-intensive academic department.
  • Research intensity reflected in average research income per staff FTE submitted £360K per annum over this period.
  • Fundamental research in Crop Science and Plant-Microbe interactions attracted an increasing volume of BBSRC competitive grant awards
  • Strategic and applied research strength reflected in industry, levy board and LINK  funding of £3.7M over the 40 months’ existence of the Department.
  • Major interdisciplinary linkages and collaborations established across the University and outside, including a £5.8M grant under the BBSRC initiative ‘Systems Approach to Biological Research’ (SABR)

 

The University of Warwick’s submission to RAE Assessment Unit 16 comes entirely from Warwick-HRI.  Warwick-HRI, a new department of the University, was established in April 2004 when a major component of the research activities of Horticulture Research International (HRI), a research institute sponsored by Defra and supported by BBSRC was transferred to the University of Warwick. Bright was appointed as Director, bringing 18 years of experience in private sector R&D management and engagement with crop biotechnology, food and seed industries and academic research institutions worldwide.

 

The Department is organised into three groupings - Plant Sciences, Crop and Environmental Sciences and Applied Microbial Sciences, with strong cross links and synergies between the research in each area.  Eight staff appointments have strengthened the academic positioning of these areas.  Two joint appointments have been made with Warwick Centre for Systems Biology (Beynon, from Warwick-HRI and Denby, a new appointment).  

 

Total research income per submitted staff member is £1.2M since joining the university.  This represents only 40 of the 72 months of the assessment period. Two strategic contracts were established with BBSRC and Defra to underpin the transition to the University sector and the environment of funding research through competitively won grants and contracts.  Good progress has been made and is reflected in the year on year increase in number and value of research awards from Research Councils and the Horticultural Development Council (HDC), the industry levy body – see table below.  It should be noted that the UK industry income reported in the RA4 does not include funding via the Levy Boards or from overseas industry sources.  In addition, £2.1M of Research Council funding from NERC, BBSRC and EPSRC was secured by the end of academic year 06/07 for projects starting in 07/08. 

     

Number and value of successful competitive awards starting in each academic year

 

Funding Body

2003/2004

2004/2005

2005/2006

2006/2007

Research Councils

Number of grants

Value (£K)

 

 

1

206

 

2

641

 

5

1655

 

11

2768

 

HDC

Number of grants

Value (£K)

 

6

512

 

10

589

 

11

609

 

30

1074

 

 


2          RESEARCH STRATEGY, STRUCTURE AND STAFFING 

 

 

2.1  Research Strategy

 

The Department mission is to “Provide academic excellence in plant and microbial sciences and their application to horticulture, crops and the environment”.  The strategy for the Department is to develop a strong and distinctive position within the University sector, based around five key goals:

 

 

Goal 1: Maintain and strengthen fundamental science excellence in plant, crop and microbial sciences.

Warwick-HRI has established areas of international excellence in each of the thematic groups described below.  Eight appointments of associate or assistant professors or senior research fellows have been made  to strengthen established areas including weed and crop ecology (Neve) to develop new research directions such as phylogenomics and crop evolution (Allaby), Systems Biology (Denby) and microbial nutrient cycling (Schaefer, NERC Advanced Fellow – returned in UoA14).  Over the next five years eight further appointments are in the research plan, arising from retirements and turnover of staff, providing a continuing stream of fresh talent.

 

Goal 2: Develop interdisciplinary science linkages to capitalise on core strengths

The Department has brought to the University a large portfolio of research projects, much of it built around working in multidisciplinary teams, for instance with close involvement of statisticians (Mead, Lynn) in the design and delivery of projects.   Staff have been fully involved in the planning and establishment of Warwick Systems Biology Centre, Warwick Institute for Sustainable Energy and Resources and the development of funded collaborations in sustainable energy, materials and manufacture.  A new area of interaction with Warwick Medical School will be developed around the areas of food, diet, health and wellbeing where there is already a University strength in the medical and social sciences. 

 

Goal 3: Maintain distinctive and effective links to strategic and applied research stakeholders

Fundamental science projects in the Department link through to strong strategic and applied research activities funded by government agencies, EU and industry.  Warwick-HRI is, and will continue to be, the largest single body providing research to the horticulture industry in the UK.  Additional opportunities for developing strategic and applied research areas exist in sustainable biocomposites, non food crops, green chemical technologies, waste recycling, energy management and climate change.  These will be delivered by a critical mass of research leaders, supported by active marketing, communications and business development activities within the Department and across the University.  

 

Goal 4: Grow the research student population

Prior to HRI joining the University most of our PhD students were registered in Universities other than Warwick and these are not captured in the RA3 return (HRI hosted an additional 52 PhD students in the assessment period prior to April 2004.)  We are rapidly developing  Warwick-registered cohorts of PhDs with funding from BBSRC (both CASE and Priority Studentships), Industry and Defra.  Eleven new students will register in 2007/8.  In addition, 6 students registered for a new taught MSc in the Department in 2007.  Our extensive research portfolio and interactive links with Industry enable us to provide a distinctive training experience for postgraduate students.  The University strategic plan is to double research student numbers over the coming decade, and the Department invests towards achieving this important goal by supporting studentships for new academic staff and where critical mass of students is required.

 

Goal 5: Maintain excellent and cost-effective facilities for future research

The Department has excellent facilities for research.  A strategic facilities plan is being implemented for phased improvements of laboratory facilities (completed 2007), development of a bio-conversion unit, consolidation of glasshouse facilities to reflect the increasing use of model species and specialised compartments, leading to a planned reduction of 46% in area and a phased upgrade programme for specialised plant growth chambers.  Excess capacity will generate commercial income, and a capital cost base commensurate with the future needs of the science will be in place which maximises use of University wide facilities and capabilities.  

 

 

2.2  Department organisation, structures and interdisciplinary research

 

2.2.1  Department Themes

 

The Department’s research is organised in three broad thematic groups: Plant Sciences, Crop and Environmental Sciences and Applied Microbiol Sciences. The research staff and projects overlap both within the department and with other university groups to provide productive new ideas and collaborations. We highlight some major achievements below, referring to important publications in RA2 where appropriate.

                                 

2.2.1.1 Plant Sciences

 

Plant-Microbe interactions

 

Beynon, Holub, Tor, Bittner-Eddy, supplemented by the recent appointment of Denby form an internationally recognised grouping engaged in understanding the molecular basis of the interactions of plants with a range of pathogens including Hyaloperenospora parasitica, Botrytis cinerea and Albugo candida.  These pathogens display different lifestyles but their interaction with the model plant Arabidopsis has allowed the development and use of a full range of  Arabidopsis genomic resources including CATMA expression arrays (Beynon-1). Key plant and pathogen genes have been identified, cloned and their involvement in signalling, defence and development of pathogen resistance has been elucidated (Holub-4; Denby-2; Tor-1).  The cloning of the cognate pathogen effector protein ATR13 to Arabidopsis resistance gene RPP13, allowed for the description of the “arms race” between plant and pathogen leading to great genetic diversity at both loci (Beynon-2). Members of this grouping have published in Science, PNAS, Plant Cell and Plant Journal and they collaborate with an extensive international network (eg Dangl, North Carolina; Bergelson, Chicago; Tyler, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, EU partners in two ERA-PG grants).  Future research will have two main strands, firstly a Systems approach to understanding the molecular networks and machinery of the plant-pathogen interaction  (Beynon, Denby, Tor), and secondly the phylogenomics and genetics of Arabidopsis ecotypes (Holub with Allaby) where an extensive  new collection of ecotypes will prime the understanding of evolution and adaptation in wild accessions, particularly in relation to pathogen interactions. 

 

Plant Development

 

The Plant Development group investigates processes of leaf growth, flowering, senescence, fruit and seed formation with a strong technology basis in plant hormone action and cell signalling (Napier, Manning, Jackson, Buchanan-Wollaston, supplemented with new appointments Gutierrez-Marcos, Kost, Eastmond).  The underlying approach in each case is based on extensive use of model species and functional genomic approaches.  Recent highlights include the demonstration of the role of epigenetic effects in fruit ripening (Cnr gene; Manning-1) and seed development (Gutierrez-Marcos-2) and the dissection of multiple signalling pathways in senescence by transcript profiling (Buchanan-Wollaston-4).  The success of this latter approach has primed a detailed transcript profiling analysis of Arabidopsis leaf development as the basis of a systems approach to understanding leaf development under different stress and environmental conditions (Beynon, Buchanan-Wollaston, Jackson, Denby, Mead, with Rand, Warwick Systems Biology). The technology base has been strengthened by recent appointments to include expertise in molecular genetics, metabolic biology imaging, protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions, epigenetics and cell signalling.  Future research aims to deploy the extensive range of analytical technologies available in the group in predictive systems approaches to problems central to plant development.

 

2.2.1.2  Crop and Environmental Sciences

 

Crop Genetics and Biodiversity

 

The Department is an international centre for research in genetics and biodiversity of vegetable crops.  Continuous funding support to the Genetic Resources Unit over  25 years has allowed extensive collection and exploitation of landraces and wild relatives of Brassica, Umbellifer and Allium species.  The combination of collections of genetic diversity, genetic marker resources and genomics platforms has enabled this group to assemble a portfolio of trait-based projects in tomato, brassica and lettuce focussed on resource efficiency, growth, yield disease resistance and quality (Thompson, Hammond, Barker, Finch-Savage, Pink, Walsh).  There is a strong involvement of biometricians (eg Lynn-2) in developing the experimental design and analysis of trait and molecular data. The recent appointment of Allaby has strengthened ability to understand crop domestication and phylogenomic relationships within and between species (eg Allaby-2). The group is well funded e.g. Pink and Finch-Savage between them have had £4.1M funding, including BBSRC, Defra and Industry support, in the 40 months of the existence of the Department.  The award of 5 grants under the BBSRC Crop Science initiative in 2006, was the most to any University.  A key feature of the grouping is the interaction and stimulation arising from fundamental research on genes and traits through to practical trait-based programmes. Research to identify genes involved in Arabidopsis leaf senescence has been translated into a funded project on petal senescence (Thomas-4), and a current Crop Science project (Pink, Buchanan-Wollaston) on broccoli post-harvest shelf life, collaborating with Syngenta Seeds. Another example is the work of Finch-Savage to model seed emergence for practical decision support systems (Finch-Savage-2) which has now been extended to a molecular description of dormancy cycling at the level of gene expression (Finch-Savage-1).  This work continues in a Crop Science project, (Barker) also with Syngenta Seeds.  Fundamental studies of the physiology of water use (Thompson-4) has led to the production of transgenic plants with improvements in water use efficiency, allowing targeted genetic improvement though breeding or biotechnology. 

 

Research in this area will increasingly involve translation from model organisms to crops and will expand to cover both novel crops for specific industrial uses in the new low carbon world (projects already in place with Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG)) and to improvements in health properties of specific crops and foods.  

 

Sustainable production

 

In this grouping, basic research in aspects of sustainable production including plant pathogen interactions, plant physiology and development and ecology of weed seed germination are pulled through into practical outputs with significant industry funding through direct contracts, levy board funding or LINK. Disease, insect and weed forecasting models (Kennedy-1; Collier-2;  Mead-1) are now applied in the horticulture industry.  New viruses of aphids (Ryabov-3) and established viruses of lepidopteron pests have been studied at the molecular level (Winstanley-2) as well as in the field.  Crop nutrition research has led to the development of official fertiliser recommendations for horticultural crops and a portfolio of projects focussed on resource efficiency through non-genetic means such as phosphorus fertiliser placement strategies or assaying phosphorus status using gene expression arrays (Hammond-1). In protected cropping environments, experimental studies have focussed on integrating energy efficiency while maintaining plant health and controlling flowering and development (Adams, Kennedy).   Future research in this area will develop to meet the needs of industry and public policy.  The delivery of sustainable production under climate change, both mitigation and adaptation, is being pursued through studies commissioned on energy and water use.  Impacts on agri-environment schemes and biodiversity both in horticulture and broadly across the agricultural sector are also being investigated. This is leading to a focus on understanding and driving the development of agricultural practices as the industry changes in response to the challenges of multiple uses for land.   

 

2.2.1.3 Applied Microbial Sciences 

 

This research area aims to provide fundamental understanding of the biology and function of micro-organisms and improve their utilisation for sustainable crop production, environmental stewardship and biotechnology.

 

Environmental Microbiology

 

A major component of this theme underpins the development of biological control agents through understanding the viral and fungal pathogens of crops and insects and exploring practical development.  Study of Coniothyrium minitans parasitising Sclerotinia species has led to practical application in controlling diseases in lettuce and onion (Whipps-1; Noble-2) supported by collaborations with twelve companies through LINK, EU consortia and industry funding.

 

Populations of microbes in soil have important effects on nutrient and pesticide metabolism (Bending-4).  New technologies including stable isotope probing are being brought to bear to describe the fungal communities in soils. This work has been strengthened by the recent appointment of Schaefer, a NERC Advanced Fellow (submitted to UoA14) who brings these approaches to bear on natural and managed soil systems.  This area will grow through further links with colleagues in Warwick Biological Sciences engaged in multiple aspects of environmental microbiology including bioenergy and biorefining.

 

Basidiomycete growth and biotechnology

 

Warwick-HRI is a recognised international centre for research on basidiomycete fungi which include commercial mushrooms, the model Coprinus cinerea and wood-rotting fungi Serpula lachrymans.  Key contributions by the group include the molecular understanding of gene organisation in model and crop species (Challen-2), the identification and control of a new virus disease of commercial mushrooms (Mills-3) and studies of mushroom compost odours leading to changes in regulations (Noble-1). The biotechnological development of the mushroom as a protein production factory has led to the formation of a spin-out company: Prospero Therapeutics.  The future development of the science of basidiomycetes has been greatly stimulated by Challen leading the successful community bid to the US Joint Genome Initiative for sequencing.  The large scale facilities for waste composting and controlled solid state fermentation derived from mushroom composting facilities are vital for future development of biorefinery concepts utilising plant wastes as sources of energy, chemicals and materials.

 

 


2.2.2    Interdisciplinary Research

 

Interdisciplinary research is a vital component of Departmental research.  Involvement of professional statisticians and modellers in design and development of research programmes is one aspect, engagement of multiple disciplines from genomics through to applied ecology to deliver disease forecasting is another.

 

Warwick-HRI has initiated strong interdisciplinary links with other departments and centres in the University. The Department is recognised as bringing interdisciplinary expertise to the University and the Director sits on the University Research Committee which is charged with fostering the interdisciplinary culture across the university and priming the development of new initiatives such as the three outlined below

 

Warwick Centre for Systems Biology (WSB)

 

The University has invested in twelve new positions and provided dedicated accommodation for a new Warwick Centre for Systems Biology (WSB).  Warwick-HRI was a driving force in establishing the Centre, and two of the new positions,  Beynon and Denby are based in the department with joint appointments in the Centre. Buchanan-Wollaston is Director of the Systems Biology Doctoral Training Centre funded by BBSRC and EPSRC. The first grants have been obtained for the Centre (EU Agron-omics  (£513K) for Buchanan-Wollaston, Beynon with Rand, Warwick) and BBSRC SABR grant (£5.8M) for Denby, Beynon, Buchanan-Wollaston with  Rand, Warwick; Grant, Exeter; Mullineaux, Essex).  The students in the Doctoral Training Centre in Systems Biology are taught modules at Warwick-HRI and carry out projects in the Department; a department fund for student support is available for supervisors.

 

Sustainable Manufacture and Materials

 

WMG (Kirwan) and Chemistry Department (Clark) , along with Warwick-HRI staff (Pink and Barker) have EPSRC funded collaborations in sustainable materials from crops and waste.  Joint studentships (Barker with Clark and Kirwan) are established.  Warwick-HRI is a partner in an EPSRC-funded network (VOPNET) linking the production chain in vegetable oils with the sustainable polymer science and industry base.

 

Warwick Institute for Sustainable Energy Research(WISER)

 

The University has brought together expertise and research activities in sustainable energy technology, policy and practice into WISER.  The Warwick-HRI (Pink, Adams, Barker)  research in energy efficiency in agriculture and non-food biomass and oil crops forms part of the portfolio.  The Department has been closely involved in the development of this initiative and of a related activity within the regional “Science Cities” agenda in developing novel high energy crops as feedstocks for the hydrogen economy.  In addition, Warwick-HRI scientists are partners in three large bioenergy programme grant applications which have been invited to full bid stage of the joint BBSRC/EPSRC Bioenergy initiative.

 

In addition to these formal linkages, Warwick-HRI staff have a history of collaborative working.  This is reflected in the nature of the awards from Research Council grant applications.  Industry Partnership Awards (2) and ERANet awards (2) have explicit requirements for collaboration.  More than half of the other successful grants awarded have a collaborator in a department other than Warwick-HRI, either within the University or externally, demonstrating the importance and pervasiveness of increasing academic linkages with research institutes, UK universities and European partnerships and networks.

 


Interdisciplinary work has been funded via EPSRC and the ESRC/BBSRC RELU initiative (Mills, with Imperial College and University of Gloucester).

 

2.2.3. Knowledge Transfer and Interaction with End Users and the Public

 

Programmes in strategic and applied research are strengthened by active engagement with the Horticulture and Food Industry, growers, processors, retailers, government and other users. Warwick-HRI’s established links with the industry are reviewed through the Department Advisory Board which includes senior figures from horticulture and related industries.  Friends of Warwick-HRI has over 600 members and a dedicated website area. 

 

Areas where Warwick-HRI science has had an impact on end users are:

 

1.      A diagnostic test and hygiene containment measures for monitoring and control of Mushroom Virus X were established at Warwick-HRI (Mills, Challen) and taken up by the UK and Irish mushroom industries.  A fee-based diagnostic service was established and lately transferred to Central Science Laboratory in 2007.

2.      Pest and disease prediction and decision support systems have been developed by Kennedy, Collier, Hanks and implemented in commercial production systems for Brassica crops (downy mildew, light leaf spot, cabbage root fly,) Narcissus (smoulder, large narcissus fly) and  carrot (carrot fly), These are available on the Department website (www.warwick.ac.uk/go/morph) and the underlying models are also used in industry forecasting systems (HDC Pest Bulletin www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/whri/hdcpestbulletin/) and Syngenta disease warning system (www.syngenta-crop.co.uk/NR/exeres/6FCD9973-C7E0-4DB2-BD1E-99A3512423CF,frameless.htm ).  

3.      Energy saving strategies developed by Adams for glasshouse crops have helped growers to exceed their Climate Change Levy targets, reducing carbon dioxide emission by 50,000 tonnes in 2006. 

4.      Alternatives to peat including using coal tailings, an industrial waste product, have been established (Noble) and commercialised in UK, Australia and USA, bringing royalty income to Warwick-HRI and allowing the saving of 15% of the peat use in commercial mushroom production. 

5.      LINK partnerships: Warwick-HRI (Whipps, Collier, Noble, Mills, Finch-Savage),  has been a partner in  nine LINK partnerships since April 2004, involving 65 different industry partners, evidence of the breadth and engagement with users.

6.      Research by Noble has been incorporated into the design of the new regulations “Secretary of State's Guidance for Mushroom Substrate Manufacture PG6/30”.   These are a practical implementation of open air, aerated procedures, estimated to have saved the UK industry £50M compared to a move to enclosed composting.

 

Members of the Department provide advice to government through membership of expert committees (BBSRC Council, GM Science Expert Panel, 2003-4, Bright; National Horticulture Forum, Bright, Mills; Defra Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal, Pink) and research funding panels, nationally and internationally. The Crop and Environmental Sciences group has a significant role in providing information, advice and recommendations, primarily to Defra, that influence government policy. Since 2004, Defra have totally revised priority research areas. Warwick-HRI has made major contributions to reshaping the research programme through a series of desk studies on water use in agriculture (Thompson), energy use (Adams), climate change (Finch-Savage, Collier, Thomas, Mills, Adams) food quality (Thomas) and biodiversity (Bending, Finch-Savage). Part time secondments of research staff to Defra has increased two way communication and improved understanding of the policy environment within Defra.

 

The Department has a strong focus on knowledge transfer.  General and tailored events, commercially sponsored research, consultancy and publication of articles in the trade press are activities supported by a Department team dedicated to communications and marketing in addition to the central University communications office.  The team also receives funding to transfer new scientific knowledge from ISAFRUIT, a European Integrated Research Project with 60 partners in 13 countries, covering all of the fruit production chain.  

 

Highlights of communications activities of the department during 2004-7 are:

 

1.       Warwick-HRI scientists have hosted and presented at over 59 Industry open days, workshops and conferences including: Robotics and Automation (Napier, jointly with Young, WMG), Organic Production (Collier, with Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA)); Pre-and Post-harvest Quality (Pink, Adams, Thomas with University of London, University of Southampton and Marks & Spencer),  Seed Day, (Pink, Holub, Finch-Savage, Hammond, Thomas, Thompson presenting to the National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB), DEFRA, HDRA and senior seed industry representatives), Status and Prospects for Genetic Modification Day (Mills, Winstanley alongside Rothamsted and Southampton University)

 

2.       Seven HDC-funded road-shows have been organised by Collier presenting results of research on integrated crop management to industry stakeholders at multiple UK locations.

 

3.       Four separate monthly articles were commissioned in Grower magazine (now Commercial Grower), two in the Vegetable Farmer magazine and one in Fresh Produce Journal describing Warwick-HRI research outputs for the professional audiences of these publications. The 2007 series in Commercial Grower considers Climate Change Impact and Mitigation.

 

4.       Four short films were produced, supported by the Research TV and I-cast initiatives at Warwick.  These provide film/podcast and associated text on a science topic for worldwide distribution and website download by news organisations.  For instance a film about pheromones and viral-based biological control in commercial orchards (Winstanley)  “Sex and Death in the Orchard” was widely taken up, including by the BBC, and was used in 35 countries.

  

5.       ‘Hands-on’ science activities were held at the Royal Show 2004, Town and Country Show 2004 & 2005 and at Wellesbourne in each year 2004-7. The local MP and 350 children at key stage 2 gained direct experience of insect life cycle, plant pigments, mushroom growing, DNA extraction and simple biometrics during Science Week in 2006). In addition, Warwick-HRI hosted 2 visits for children from the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, multiple local school visits and presented interactive science modules at the Aimhigher Summer School, based at Warwick, in 2006 and 2007.

 

6.       The Department (lead Barker) achieved a gold medal for the display “Riding the wave of Brassica Biodiversity” at the Chelsea Flower Show, 2006 in the lifelong learning category.  

 

7.       The Bewley Lecture, a biennial lecture hosted by Warwick-HRI and sponsored by the GCRI Trust engages industry and a wider audience. In 2005, the topic was ‘European education of horticulture specialists’ (Larssen, Alnarp, Sweden) and in 2007, Genomics and its application to lettuce and other crops (Michelmore, Davis, USA).  Both events brought in an audience of over 100 from outside the Department. 

 


2.3  Staffing policies and support for researchers

 

Departmental PIs divide their time between research activities, teaching and department administration. Early career researchers and new academic staff have a lighter load of administration and teaching. The Department provides four levels of support to help in developing and submitting successful research grant proposals.  Firstly a dedicated research support officer in the Department provides information on funding sources and procedures and ensures administrative and costing processes are efficiently delivered.  Secondly, under the auspices of the Department Research Funding Group, seminars and briefing sessions are provided on the research strategies of different funding organisations and their processes and procedures.  In 2005/7 these included BBSRC, EU FP7, Defra, HDC, NERC.  In addition, the Department runs an internal process, whereby grant proposals prior to submission are peer reviewed by colleagues with relevant experience and expertise.  This feedback improves the individual research proposals and trains the community to write better proposals as a result of this experience.  Finally, support for pump-priming new research proposals is available to PIs through the University Research Development Fund, with grants of up to £20,000 and from the Department’s own Research Fund.  

 

The Department runs a vibrant series of fortnightly seminars involving alternating internal and external speakers. Each of the three Research Groupings organises regular seminars at which all research staff and students are expected to make a presentation on their work on an annual basis. This fulfils the requirement for making an annual formal presentation in the Department PhD student training policy. Transport is provided for staff and students to attend seminars at WSB and Biological Sciences, which have been arranged so that they do not clash with those of the Department.

 

All staff undergo a formal annual performance and development review, the outcome being a documented and open appraisal of performance against previously agreed objectives and explicit forward objectives including research objectives, publications, grant writing and academic development. Each academic staff member has a review with their direct line manager and mentor who is one of the senior Professors and a second review with the Director.  Research successes may be recognised though the merit award system of salary adjustments as well as through more visible celebration on the Department or University intranet or Press Releases to the relevant trade Press.  These visible successes provide identifiable role models for other staff in what constitutes research success.

 

The Department has instigated a tailored developmental programme delivered by external professionals in three modules over a six month period helping research leaders develop skills required for effective grant winning and research management. First run in 06/07, it was modified after responses from participants.  Senior Professors participate in the Warwick Leadership Course equipping them to drive forward the research agenda across the University. 

 

New University academic appointments register for the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic and Professional Practice, a 2–year professional development course that allows staff to focus on developing research-related professional skills. Support for the new researcher is provided through peer group activities and mentoring. Within the Department, newly appointed academic staff are supported by start-up funds for the first two years enabling them to hire postdoctoral level and technical support. This enables them to maintain their research output or develop new areas of research leading to grant funding to develop their careers.  Evidence for progress in this area is provided by the fact that research council grant numbers have increased and the number of staff holding these grants doubled in the 2006/7 academic year.

 


Significant departures from the Department since 2004 include White who  left to SCRI (2006), which enabled Hammond to provide leadership of the plant mineral nutrition research. Seymour, who worked on tomato fruit ripening and genomics, left to Nottingham University (2006) – research in this area is now led by Manning who has long experience in fruit ripening.  Grundy left to the NFU (2007), enabling Neve to develop the weed ecology area with Finch-Savage.   Hanks retired from Kirton Research Centre and his industry expertise in outdoor flowers and bulbs is retained through personal consultancy and a newly established Cut Flower Centre.

 

 

3          RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE AND FACILITIES 

 

The main Warwick-HRI site is at Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, 15 miles from the main Warwickcampus.  A smaller site, the Kirton Research Centre, Lincolnshire, is located in the heart of the main UK vegetable and flower growing region.

 

The Wellesbourne campus spans 191 hectares and has high quality research facilities for basic and applied plant and microbial science.  All researchers are provided with modern, fully serviced laboratories. A purpose-built laboratory building containing 7 multi-occupancy laboratories capable of housing up to 120 researchers was opened in 1995. Significant recent SRIF3-funded development (£3.5M) has led to the refurbishment of labs and offices and provided two additional large high quality laboratories capable of housing 50 researchers. The investment also provides dedicated facilities for media preparation and other laboratory support services, a biochemical analysis suite and a soil and mineral analysis laboratory. 

 

An important part of the main research facilities is The Genomics Resource Centre funded by £2.5m Treasury Capital Modernisation Fund grant. It includes a specialised genomics laboratory equipped with robots, sequencers, PCR, scanners etc and is supported by two trained technicians. A freezer archive (-80oC and liquid nitrogen) is run by the genomics laboratory.   Recently, an LTQ XL linear ion-trap Mass Spectrometer (Thermo Fisher, £371K, funded by Advantage West Midlands Science Cities initiative) has been installed to provide powerful and versatile high throughput metabolite profiling and proteomics capability.

 

Laboratory Support Services provides media preparation and cleaning from a new, purpose designed unit. Research Imaging comprises an electron microscope suite with transmission and scanning microscopes, a laser confocal microscopy facility plus conventional and fluorescence microscopy with image analysis capability. Soil and Mineral Analysis provides routine analyses of the organic and inorganic content of soil and plant samples from field and protected cropping experiments. A monoclonal antibody facility delivers support to the programme on pest and disease diagnostics. Service units are all supported by technical staff  

 

Bioinformatic software is available for micro-array analysis (GeneSpring, R based packages in Bioconductor, MATLAB), gene mapping (GeneMarker) and DNA and protein analysis (DNASTAR).  A 64 processor Apple X-serve cluster, purchased with SRIF funding and housed in WSB, provides advanced bioinformatics tools and extensive data storage facilities.  Software available includes over 150 programmes in the web based iNquiry package for DNA and protein analysis.  In addition it provides access to novel web based tools for transcription network modelling and DNA and protein motif identification that are being developed in WSB.

 

Underpinning work on crop improvement is the Genetic Resources Unit, housing a precise, temperature controlled seed storage and regeneration facility containing over 13,000 accessions. It acts as one of the internationally recognized gene banks under-pinning the UK inputs into international networks and the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO-UN). The store also enables the secure curated storage of genetic resources developed through Department research programmes.

 

The Department has extensive facilities and technical support for growing plants at all scales from model plant species to field and protected crops. Approximately half of the 191-ha site is farmed commercially and areas are selected for trials purposes as part of a 3-4 year rotation. There are a number of dedicated specialist sites for soil-borne diseases and insect pest trials. There is also a 12-ha organic field registered with the Soil Association. The site has over 1 ha of modern facilities for growing protected crops ranging from low grade, low cost polythene covered tunnels and standing out frame areas to crop-production quality greenhouses that allow experiments to be performed in commercially relevant conditions, a range of computer controlled glasshouses for experimental and plant-raising work and state of the art quarantine and containment facilities with air conditioning and specialist pollen and air filtration. Field and protected crop facilities are supported by a team of approximately 20 skilled staff most of whom hold NPTC FEPA and other proficiency certificates.

 

A wide range of controlled environment chambers ranging from cabinets for general use to those with very high specification for light levels, temperature range and accuracy of control are housed in dedicated buildings. Facilities include 6 large, high specification, growth rooms (Weiss) and 13 medium size growth chambers (9 Saxcil and 4 Sanyo). A phased replacement of the Saxcil cabinets with Sanyo equivalents is included in the Department’s five year plan. These all provide control of temperature, light levels, humidity and CO2 and are set up for remote monitoring and data-logging. A further 6 small Sanyo growth cabinets and 4 Plant Environment Rooms provide control of temperature and light levels for routine plant growth.  Controlled environments are maintained and monitored by a dedicated technician and available on a cost recovery basis through a centralised booking system. Additional controlled environment facilities include a dedicated insect-rearing unit. 

 

Bioconversions of plant-based materials occur in biorefining, bioenergy production, waste recycling and mushroom production. Facilities for study of these processes at  scale are provided in the Bioconversion Unit to complement and extend lab-based studies.  Eighteen large scale incubator rooms with forced air, steam, temperature and humidity control are used for biorefinery and  mushroom production trials, as well as being adaptable for insect rearing and shelf life studies.  Enclosed and open air composting with steam sterilisation facilities can work at up to 40 tonnes scale.  A 300 litre enclosed New Brunswick solid state fermenter, funded by Advantage West Midlands, is used for EPSRC-funded research in biomaterials processing.

 

The experimental farm site at Kirton provides a unique University facility for interaction with the commercial horticulture industry. Based in the heart of the vegetable and flower growing industry, the site soil and cultivation conditions enable the results of applied research to be directly transferred to solve industry problems. The site is equipped with glasshouses, cold stores, modern seed handling equipment and a 4-ha organic area. It also houses the recently established Cut Flower Trials and Testing Centre set up and run with industry support. Wellesbourne provides scientific oversight of the Kirton research programme and co-ordination and management of the experimental and trials work is carried out by experienced staff on site.

 

University departments across the life sciences share access to high calibre research infrastructure; two facilities used by Warwick-HRI staff in collaborative programmes are the Proteomics and Imaging facilities housed within the Biological Sciences Department.  The Proteomics Facility provides access to a large range of protein analysis equipment, especially for mass spectrometry with two Q-ToF Ultima machines provided by Waters MS Technologies (£0.8M), two Trio GC-mass spectrometers provided by I.C.I. Measurement Science Group (£200K), a MALDI MS, a Micromass Quattro II triple quadrupole mass spectrometer and four time-of-flight machines. A Defra equipment grant (£919K) led to the development of the Synapt HDMS ion mobility mass spectrometer, the first commercial instrument of its type. The 2D protein analysis systems are supported by up-to-date software linked to a dedicated bioinformatics computer cluster.

 

The Imaging facility provides support for work using electron microscopy and fluorescent confocal microscopy.  The EM facility was funded by the Wellcome Trust (£1.2M) which provided a custom-built suite containing a range of equipment and two cryo EMs, a Jeol 2010 field emission gun and a Jeol 2011 200kV field emission gun machines, both with associated CCD image capturing systems.  The Imaging suite also contains standard scanning and transmission EMs.  Complementing extensive epifluorescent microscope capacity, confocal microscopic imaging is provided by two Leica confocal microscopes (one SP2 and the most recent SP5 models), funded by SRIF 2 and SRIF3, and a fast resolution deconvolution imaging system.  Both Leica machines have the ability to provide dynamic images of living cells in real time.

 

Two major pieces of equipment, an 700 MHz NMR and a state of the art Toponome Imaging System purchased and run by Chemistry and Systems Biology respectively are housed and supported within Warwick-HRI.

 

 

4          MEASURES OF ESTEEM

 

* = Early Career Researcher 

 

 

Steve Adams                                                         

1

Associate Editor, Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology, 2001-to date

2

Keynote lecture, ‘HortiModel 2006’ an International Symposium on Models in Protected Cultivation’, The Netherlands, 2006

3

Scientific Advisor, Horticultural Development Council Protected Crops Panel, 2003-to date 

4

Invited member, Scientific Committees for international ISHS sponsored conferences ‘Sustainable  Greenhouse Systems: co-operation of Engineering and Crop Science’ Belgium, 2004

 

 

Robin Allaby 

1

Advisor, to the ‘Domestication of Europe’ NERC consortium 2004-2007

2

Advisor on plant evolution for, An Atlas of Evolution, Andromeda press

3

Invited speaker, International Symposium ‘State of the Art of Ancient DNA’, Spain 2007

4

Invited speaker at XI meeting of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) Sweden 2007

 

 

Guy Barker   

1

Member of the Academic advisory board to Chemical Industries Knowledge Transfer Network (CIKTN)

2

Speaker, Plant Animal Genome XIII, International Conference on the Status of Plant & Animal Genome Research, San Diego 2005

3

Speaker, XV Crucifer Genetics Meeting, ‘Products from Plants’ Wageningen, 2006

4

Invited speaker & participant, UK-Canada Brassica Genomics Workshop, 

Innovation Place, Saskatoon, 2006

 


 

 

GaryBending                                                       

1

Invited lecture, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2002

2

Invited speaker, UNESCO workshop on transport and fate of diffuse contaminants in catchments with special emphasis on stable isotope applications, Munich 2004

3

Scientific committee, 4th International Symposium on Environmental Aspects of Pesticide Microbiology, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2004

4

Executive committee, 5th International Symposium on Environmental Aspects of Pesticide Microbiology, Cordoba, Spain, 2007

 

 

Jim Beynon                                                           

1

Member, BBSRC Plant and Microbial Sciences Committee (2000-2003, 2007)

2

Editor, Plant Biotechnology Journal

3

Invited speaker and session organiser, 13th International Congress on Plant-Microbe Interactions, Sorrento, Italy, 2007

4

Plenary Lecture, 24th Fungal Genetics Conference, Asilomar, USA – March 2007

 

 

Peter Bittner-Eddy     *

1

Review of BBSRC grants

2

3

4

Reviewer , Journal of Experimental Botany  

Reviewer, Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology

Reviewer, Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions

 

 

Vicky Buchanan-Wollaston                  

1

Gordon Conference Co Chair ‘Plant Senescence and Cell Death’, 2004

2

Member, Advisory Board, Plant Biotechnology Journal

3

Member of science assessment panel for the BBSRC, DfID research grant initiative, 2006

4

 Invited lecture, Banbury Conference on Plant Cell Death, Cold Spring Harbour, USA, 2001

 

 

 

Mike Challen                                                         

1

Invited Presentation, 7th European Conference on Fungal Genetics, Copenhagen, 2004

2

Invited Presentation, Congress Genetics and Cellular Biology of Basidiomycetes VI’,  Spain, 2005

3

Conference Organisation Committee, Basidio 2003 and Basidio 2005/ BMS, SFAM/SGM sponsored meeting for European Basidiomycete research community

4

Member, Scientific Advisory Committee (Molecular Biology, Genetics & Biochemistry) for the International Society for Mushroom Science Conference, South Africa, 2008  

 

 

Rosemary Collier                                     

1

Invited to Newfoundland - Agriculture and Agri-Food, Canada to provide consultancy on crop protection research project. 

2

Invited speaker/session chairman - Eleventh International Symposium on Insect-Plant Relationships, Helsingor, Denmark 2001

3

Invited speaker, 4th European Workshop of Invertebrate Eco-physiology in St Petersburg, Russia 2001

4

Convenor, International Organisation for Biological Control West Palearctic Regional Section Working Group ‘Integrated protection in field vegetables’

 

 

 

Katherine Denby 

1

Director of ‘capar’, University of CapeTown Microarray Facility 2000-2006

2

Grant reviewer, National Science Foundation, USA, 2005-to date

3

Grant reviewer, Netherlands Organisation for Science Research (NWO), Dutch Science Council & BBSRC, 2005-to date

4

Peer reviewer, Plant Physiology, 2006-to date

 

 

 

Peter J Eastmond 

1

BBSRC David Phillips Research Fellowship 2001

2

Invited speaker, 3rd European Symposium on Plant Lipids, York, 2007

3

Invited speaker, 17th International Symposium on Plant Lipids (Michigan State University) USA, 2006

4

Invited speaker, 16th International Arabidopsis Conference, Madison, USA , 2005

 

 

Bill Finch-Savage                                     

1

Invited Professor, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France, 2001 

2

Invited plenary lecture and session chairman, 2nd ISSS Workshop on molecular Aspects of Seed Dormancy and Germination, Salamanca, Spain 2007

3

Member of Advisory Board, Journal of Experimental Botany

4

Executive Committee Member and Trustee of the International Seed Science Society from 2005, and co-Chairman of the Scientific Committee for their 9th International Conference, Poland, 2008

 

 

Jose Gutierrez-Marcos 

1

Grant reviewer, BBSRC, USDA and NSF, NERC, Spanish MEC, Israel-USISF & Germany-DFG

2

Plenary invited speaker, Plant Genetics ASPB meeting, USA 2005

3

Invited Speaker, Maize Genetic Meeting, Chicago USA 2007

4

Invited Speaker, Apomixis Meeting, Gatersleben, Germany 2007

 

 

 

John Hammond  *

1

Invited speaker, 3rd International Symposium, Phosphorus Dynamics in the Soil-Plant Continuum, Brazil, 2006

2

Invited co-editor, book on the Ecophysiology of Plant-Phosphorus Interactions, Springer Plant Ecophysiology Book series 

3

Session Organiser, SEB Conference, ‘ransport of plant growth regulators, Glasgow 2007

4

Joint editor (2007), Special Issue, The transport of plant growth regulators, Journal of Experimental Botany (to be published in 2008)

 

 

Eric Holub                                              

1

Organizing Committee, XIX Int’l Congress of Genetics, Melbourne, 2003

2

Keynote speaker, European Congress of Plant Pathology, Prague, Czech Republic, 2002

3

Invited speaker and Session Chair, 11th Int’l Conference on Arabidopsis Research.  University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2001

4

Senior editor / editor, Molecular Plant Pathology 

 

 


 

 

Yiguo Hong                                                           

1

Honorary Professor, Key Laboratory of Molecular Virology and Biotechnology, Beijing Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, 1995-to date

2

Guest Professor, East China Normal UniversityShanghai, China, 2007

3

Member, Narnaviridae Study Group, International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, 2001-to date

4

Member, Editorial Board of Biotechnology, 2006-to date

 

 

 

Stephen Jackson                                                

1

Committee member, SEB Plant Development Group committee, 2001-to date

2

Organiser, Genetics Society Meeting on Arabidopsis, UK, 2004

3

Invited speaker,  SEB International Flowering Symposium. UK, 2006

4

Organiser, SEB Conference ‘Control of Flowering Initiation, Southampton, 2003

 

 

Roy Kennedy                                                        

1

 Invited speaker, 8th International Congress of Plant Pathology, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2003

2

Invited speaker, 6th Conference of European Foundation for Plant Pathology, Prague, Czech Republic, 2002

3

Member , Editorial Board, Plant Protection Science

4

Honorary Lecturer, University of Neuchatel, Switzerland, 2007

 

 

Benedikt Kost

1

Associate Editor, Protoplasm, 2003-to date

2

Speaker, Gordon Research Conference:  Plant and Fungal Cytoskeleton USA, 2006

3

Speaker, 18th International Congress Sexual Plant Reproduction, China, 2004

4

Speaker, Molecular Cell Dynamics Meeting, Germany, 2006

 

 

James Lynn                                            

1

Referee, Theoretical and Applied Genetics

2

Referee, Annals of Botany

3

Referee, Journal of Agricultural Science

4

Referee,  Journal of Experimental Botany

 

 

Ken Manning                                                                    

1

Review panellist, ‘Genome Analysis of the Plant Biological System’ (GABI) research initiate 2006 

2

Invited co-respondent speaker, Gordon Conference on Postharvest Physiology, New England, USA, 2002

3

Reviewer, US-Israel Bi-national Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD)

4

Session Chair, ‘Postharvest biotechnology to improve storage and shelf-life of horticultural crops‘ at the Postharvest Biotechnology Expert Consultation Meeting, Tunisia, 2006

 

 

Andrew Mead                                                        

1

Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the  Development of the International Biometric Society’ Canada, 2006

2

Vice President and President elect, International Biometric Society 2007 

3

Invited Speaker at International Biometric Society meeting in honour of the 80th birthday of Sir David Cox, FRS, 2004

4

Statistical consultant, Weed Research, 2001–to date

 

 

 

Peter Mills                                                     

1

President of the British Society for Plant Pathology, 2006-2007

2

Member of Editorial Board of Plant Pathology 1999-to date

3

Invited speaker, 8th Conference European Foundation for Plant Pathology, Denmark, 2006

4

Member, National Horticultural Forum, 2001-2004

 

 

Richard Napier                                         

1

Visiting Professor, Nottingham University, 2002-to date

2

Chair, Plant Section Management Committee and Member of Council – Society for Experimental Biology, 2001-2005

3

International organising committee,  Auxin and Cytokinin Congress (ACPD), Prague, 2005

4

Member, Editorial Board: Journal for Experimental Botany, 1997-to date

 

 

Paul Neve  *

1

Universityof Western Australia, Schoolof Plant Biology Awardfor best postdoctoral paper published in 2005

2

Inaugural member of the Australian Glyphosate Sustainability Working Group, 2004. http://www.weeds.crc.org.au/glyphosate/index.html  

3

Invited visit and lectures, University of Arkansas, USA and Syngenta Crop Protection as an expert on evolved weed resistance for glyphosate in US GM-based cropping systems, July 2007

 

 

Ralph Noble                                                           

1

Visiting Professor, Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hangzhou, China.

2

Co-ordinator, EU Project Cluster ‘Producing plant disease suppressive composts for horticulture’

3

Invited speaker, BCPC Conference, Glasgow, 2004 

4

Member, Horticultural Development Council Mushroom Research Panel

 

 

Dave Pink

1

Plenary Speaker, ‘Disease Resistance in Plant Pathology’, 6th Conference of the European Foundation for Plant Pathology, Prague, 2002

2

Member, BBC Rural Affairs Advisory Committee

3

Panel Member, Defra Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal

4

Chair, Organisation and Scientific Committees for Eucarpia Leafy Vegetables Conference, Warwick, 2007

 

 

Eugene Ryabov                                   

1

Member, International Committee of the Virus Taxonomy, Umbaviruses 2004-to date 

2

Scientific consultant, Empharm Ltd, East Malling, Kent

3

Invited lectures,  ‘Plant virus vectors’, Agricultural University, Beijing, China, 2007

4

Referee, New Phytologist

 

 


 

 

Brian Thomas                                                       

1

Invited Lecture, Symposium Co–Chair, European Society for Photobiology / American Society for Photobiology Joint Symposium. Norway, 2001 

2

Invited Editor in Chief, Encyclopaedia of Applied Plant Sciences.  London: Academic Press, 2003

3

Editorial Board, Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources 

4

Invited lecture, Session Chair; International Symposium on Edible Alliaceae, Beijing, China 2004

 

 

 

Andrew Thompson                                             

1

Invited speaker, 17th International conference on Plant Growth Substances, Brno, Czech Republic 2001 

2

Invited speaker, Rothamsted Research Seminar Series, 2003 

3

Invited speaker, John Boyer Symposium. SEB Meeting, Barcelona 2005

4

Invited speaker, 2nd International Conference on Integrated Approaches to Sustain and Improve Plant Production Under Drought Stress (Interdrought II), Italy 2005

 

 

 

Mahmut Tör                                                           

1

Invited speaker, 11th international Congress on Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. St.-Petersburg, Russia. 2003

2

Invited speaker, International joint workshop on PR-proteins and induced resistance, Copenhagen, Denmark. 2004

3

Session Co-Chair, 1st Congress of Society of Innate Immunity, Antalya, Turkey 2007.

4

Invited speaker, 12th International Congress on Molecular Plant –Microbe Interactions. Merida, Mexico, 2005 

 

 

John A Walsh                                                       

1

Elected to Board of Editors, European Plant Pathology 2007

2

Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science invited visiting fellowship, 2007 

3

Committee Membership, Plant Virology Co-ordinator for Society for General Microbiology (SGM) 2006-to date  

4

Invited speaker, 7th Australasian Plant Virology Workshop, Perth and invited lectures at University of Western Australia 2006

 

 

John Whipps                                                        

1

Invited presentation, 7th International Mycological Congress, Oslo, Norway, 2002

2

Council Member for the International Organisation for Biological Control, WPRS

3

External assessor, National Research Programme,  “MISTRA” (Sweden)

4

Editorial Board, Biocontrol Science and Technology; Applied Soil Ecology

 

 

Doreen Winstanley                                              

1

Elected Secretary to the Society of Invertebrate Pathology (SIP) 

2

Consultant for French biotech company, ‘Calliope’ Arytstar, 2001-to date  

3

Invited speaker, International Congress of Entomology Brazil, 2001

4

Member, Scientific Organising Committee for the Society for Invertebrate Pathology (SIP) Conference 2008