NEWS: New appointments at NIAB for OSTS Chief Officer and Cereal Pathologist

6 Aug 2014

Linda Maile has been appointed Chief Officer of the Official Seed Testing Station for England and Wales.Linda Maile, OSTS chief officer

Currently Head of OSTS Seed Testing Laboratories based at NIAB Cambridge, Miss Maile takes over from Jane Taylor, who is stepping down after seven year’s service at the helm of the OSTS.

NIAB’s Head of Analytical Services Dr David Lee says: “I would like to thank Jane for her leadership and guidance over the past seven years, steering the OSTS through many changes. We were fortunate to be able to fill the post internally with someone of Linda’s experience in the science of seed testing. The hand-over has been made easier by the already close working relationship the two colleagues share.”

Both Miss Maile and Mrs Taylor are on International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) committees and Jane will continue in her role as Chairman of the Purity Committee for the foreseeable future. Mrs Taylor will continue to work in OSTS in a part-time capacity.  

Dr Sarah Holdgate has been appointed Cereal Pathologist at NIAB and takes over the management of the UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey.

Dr Holdgate is responsible for the overall management of cereal pathology programmes, including Dr Sarah Holdgate - UKCPVSRecommended and National List testing, specialised cereal pathology services and the UKCPVS, and will be involved in the development of some associated research. She will also work alongside NIAB’s pre-breeding teams, with significant input into the characterisation of disease resistance in a range of experimental breeding resources.

NIAB’s Head of Pathology Dr Jane Thomas says: “We’re delighted to welcome Sarah to NIAB to a position that has a very public role working with farmers, agronomists and plant breeders, and funders. Her experience in both the academic and commercial sectors will be of enormous benefit to the UKCPVS and our cereal pathology programmes.”

A graduate in Applied Biology from the University of Bath, with a PhD in plant pathology from Rothamsted Research and Cranfield University, Dr Holdgate joins NIAB from RAGT Seeds where she was the plant breeding pathologist, heading up the European Cereals Pathology Support Group for the breeding company.

Official Seed Testing Station

The OSTS at NIAB is designated by the Food and Environment Research Agency as an Official Seed Testing Laboratory and is contracted to carry out ISTA tests for customers on behalf of Fera. To enable the OSTS to carry out this function the laboratory at Cambridge is accredited and audited by ISTA and has to meet specified quality criteria based on ISO Guide 25 and EN 45001 standards.

ISTA, the International Seed Testing Association, is an international organisation whose aim is to promote the uniformity of seed analysis results by the use of standardised rules for seed sampling and testing.


The UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS) is funded by Fera and HGCA and managed by NIAB.  It has been monitoring cereal rusts and mildews in the UK for more than 40 years, detecting and warning industry and growers of new races of disease emerging on resistant varieties. The UKCPVS:

  • Monitors changes in virulence of UK cereal pathogen populations
  • Maintains and improves variety disease resistance allowing growers to prioritise other characteristics such as yield and quality when choosing a variety
  • Enables breeders and variety testing authorities to screen out potential new varieties and breeding lines that are too susceptible to new races of disease before they get to the HGCA Recommended List stage or onto farm
  • Provides information and warnings to assist disease risk management on farm; underpinning HGCA RL disease resistance ratings and assessing the threat that each new race poses to the full range of commercial varieties.