Cambridge plant scientist wins prestigious research prize

18 Sep 2009

Cambridge plant scientist Alison Bentley has won the British Society for Plant Pathology’s ‘2009 best student paper’ award for her research on crown rot in wheat, a major disease in the Australian grain belt.

A post-doctoral researcher in wheat pre-breeding at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) Alison carried out the research during her PhD studies in the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at The University of Sydney, Australia. Her research paper ‘Spatial aggregation in Fusarium pseudograminearum populations from the Australian grain belt’ was published in the journal ‘Plant Pathology’ this year.

“In Australia most farmers use no-tillage methods to retain soil moisture and prevent erosion. Soil and stubble-borne diseases, including crown-rot, are common,” explains Dr Bentley.

F. pseudograminearum, the causal agent of crown rot, attacks the wheat stem base restricting the movement of water into the plant and subsequently reducing yields. Alison’s work focused on understanding the dynamics of the fungus, proving that the disease spreads along rows in crop stubble from the point of infection.

“There have been a number of studies that have attempted to characterise the fungus and the disease it causes, but all of these have been based on regional or national scales. We attempted to describe patterns of disease on 1-metre scales within fields. By understanding how the fungus behaves at such small scales, inferences can be made about fundamental characteristics of the fungus, for example how it spreads, and how it infects plants from season to season. We found that the fungus appeared to initiate infection at a point and spread clonally along the stubble’s crop rows from the point of infection,” says Dr Bentley.

For further information contact:
Dr Alison Bentley, NIAB
M: 07766 507048
E: [at]

Professor Andy Greenland
T: 01223 342200
E: andy.greenland [at]

Issued by:
Ros Lloyd, Front Foot Communications
T: 01487 831425
E: ros.lloyd [at]