St Albans professor’s oilseed research

St Albans' Bruce Fitt, professor of plant pathology at the University of Hertfordshire, is studying

St Albans' Bruce Fitt, professor of plant pathology at the University of Hertfordshire, is studying resistance to disease in young oilseed rape plants - Credit: Photo supplied

A St Albans researcher is hoping that a study will help crops grown for biodiesel, vegetable oil and high protein meal for livestock to fight diseases in future.

Bruce Fitt, professor of plant pathology at the University of Hertfordshire, said that measuring resistance to disease in young oilseed rape plants was vital in the battle to breed new disease resistant varieties of the crop.

This is the focus of a study by a team of researchers led by the Hatfield-based university.

Oilseed rape, a bright yellow flowering plant, is prone to a disease, phoma stem canker, which is responsible for losses worth more than £1,200 million across the globe.

Bruce said: “Plant disease epidemics are bad news for farmers. There has been a heavy reliance on fungicides to control disease, but some of the most effective fungicides are now being withdrawn through EU regulations.


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“So there is a need to develop oilseed crop varieties with greater inbuilt resistance.”

He said it was a difficult and expensive process breeding oilseed rape crops for disease resistance in the UK.

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Researchers at the university have written a paper, based on experiments at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, showing that resistance in young plants can be detected in controlled conditions.

Bruce said that if resistance could be discovered at an earlier stage than they currently were, this could accelerate the process of breeding the oilseed rape crops for resistance, and save the industry money.

He added: “Our study investigates new methods for assessing disease resistance in young plants.”

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