skip to primary navigationskip to content

Dr Alison Bentley


Characterising the complex interactions in the wheat-maize-Fusarium pathosystem  The fungal pathogens Fusarium graminearum and F. culmorum have major impacts on yield and quality in the UK’s major arable crops, wheat and barley, as well as in maize, which is increasingly cultivated as a forage crop in Europe. The diseases caused by these pathogens are particularly damaging in wet years and there is initial evidence for changes in population profiles with changing climatic conditions. F. graminearum can produce mycotoxins in infected grain and there are strict limits placed on acceptable levels in both human and animal foodstuffs. The effect of F. graminearum colonisation on mycotoxin contamination of forage maize production is yet to be shown. Control of FHB requires an integrated disease management strategy, requiring both reductions in inoculum levels and host resistance in order to reduce crop losses. In the emerging Fusarium-maize interaction, the nature of the relationship between host and pathogen remains to be determined. In this project the student will use a range of tools to further understand the complex relationships between host and pathogen in the wheat-maize system. Tools employed will include the use of transformed isolates to study colonisation and competition, genomics approaches to characterise population structure and the use of next-generation wheat germplasm resources (including the NIAB 8-way MAGIC population and NIAB synthetic hexaploid wheats) to identify novel resistance mechanisms.


  1. Summerell BA, Leslie JF, Liew ECY, Laurence MH, Bullock S, Petrovic T, Bentley AR, Howard CG, Peterson SA, Walsh J and Burgess LW (2011) Fusarium species associated with plants in Australia. Fungal Diversity 46: 1-27. 
  2. Harrow SA, Farrokhi-Nejad R, Pitman AR, Scott IAW, Bentley AR, Hide C and  Cromey MG (2010) Characterisation of New Zealand Fusarium populations using a polyphasic approach differentiates the F. avenaceum/F. acuminatum/F. tricinctum species complex in cereal and grassland systems. Fungal Biology 114: 293-311
  3. Bentley AR, Leslie JF, Liew ECY, Burgess LW and Summerell BA (2008) Genetic structure of Fusarium pseudograminearum populations from the Australian grain belt. Phytopathology 98: 250-255.

Second supervisor:

Jane Thomas