Growing healthy plants and keeping disease at bay is imperative to maintain food production. My research interests are concerned with bacteria that colonise plants and affect plant health, either detrimentally (pathogens) or helpfully (plant growth promotion). I am interested in determining the mechanisms used by bacteria for causing disease and for promoting plant growth. Furthermore, how do bacteria survive in their environment, particularly escaping predation, and how do they evolve to new lifestyles – this is a particularly important question when considering the emergence of new pathogens from non-pathogenic genotypes.
We use a variety of experimental techniques (click here for a collection of protocols), primarily focussed around genetics, to understand the lifestyle and function of these bacteria. By gradually gaining an understanding of the different systems used by the bacteria in different environments, scientists will collectively gain an overall picture of the ecology, pathogenicity and plant growth promotion processes and develop formulations for controlling plant disease and improving plant health.