Matt's research focuses on molecular diagnostics of plant pathogens, including work on the cereal rust fungi, root-infecting pathogens of tomatoes, and phytoplasma diseases of a range of plants
Current research interests include:
- Plant microbe interactions
- Plant pathogen diagnostics
- Molecular fingerprinting of bacteria and fungi
- Plant virology
- Cereal rust fungi
- Diseases of coconuts, oilpalm, sugarcane, napier grass, wheat, potato and tomato
- Changes in gene expression during plant-pathogen interactions
Matt graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1981 with an honours degree in Biochemistry, and then studied for his PhD at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, working with viruses of spiroplasmas. He then worked for three years as a research fellow at the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry in Canberra, Australia with Dr Tony Pryor, on dsRNA mycoviruses in the rust fungi, before returning to a postdoctoral position in the Sainsbury laboratory, Norwich with Professor Jonathan Jones, working on the Cf resistance genes in tomato. In 1992 he moved to the University of Nottingham as a lecturer in plant pathology and was awarded a personal chair in 2011. His research focuses on molecular diagnostics of plant pathogens, including work on the cereal rust fungi, root-infecting pathogens of tomatoes, and phytoplasma diseases of a range of plants, including coconut diseases in Ghana and Sri Lanka.In 2012 he co-edited a Methods and Protocols book on phytoplasmas, and has published numerous peer-reviewed papers. He is also the Senior Editor for the Journal, 'Plant Pathology'.
Convener for the second year 'Introductory Plant Pathology' module, and for two third year modules, 'Molecular Plant Pathology' and 'Plant Microbe Interactions'.
Convener of the first year School of Biosciences 'Academic Development and Employability' module, and of the third year 'Research Project'.
Director of Learning and Teaching in the School of Biosciences.
Member of the Faculty Student Experience Committee and of the University Teaching and Learning Network.
Our current work is focused on molecular diagnostics and use of molecular markers in plant pathogen populations, and covers a range of different plant diseases. In phytoplasma work, we have been… read more
Our current work is focused on molecular diagnostics and use of molecular markers in plant pathogen populations, and covers a range of different plant diseases. In phytoplasma work, we have been working with the Coconut Research Programme at the CSIR Oilpalm Research Institute, Ghana, on Cape St Paul wilt disease, a coconut lethal yellowing-type disease. This work has been investigating the possibility that phytoplasmas are transmitted through seed (for which we have found no conclusive evidence), and examining the nature of resistance and tolerance to phytoplasmas in coconut. In addition, and in collaboration with Fera, York and Optigene, UK we have developed and piloted methods for in-field phytoplasma diagnostics based on isothermal amplification methods (LAMP). This has involved the development of a 2-minute DNA extraction procedure from coconut trunk borings combined with amplification and real-time detection of LAMP products in the portable battery-operated Genie II machine, to result in phytoplasma detection within 30 minutes. In further work at the University of Nottingham, we have been developing LAMP and other diagnostic assays for a range of other phytoplasmas, including coconut diseases in Sri Lanka (collaborations with the Coconut Research Institute, University of Colombo and University of Ruhuna), sugarcane phytoplasmas (collaborations with Thailand and Vietnam) and Napier grass stunt in East Africa (collaborations with ICIPE, Kenya and Rothamsted, UK). Other ongoing phytoplasma research has resulted in the sequencing of the Napier grass stunt phytoplasma genome and we are working on developing control strategies for a range of other phytoplasma diseases that we maintain in a collection in Madagascar Periwinkle plants at the University of Nottingham.
In other studies we are developing diagnostic methods, including LAMP assays, for a range of other fungal and viral diseases, including fusarium of oilpalm (with OPRI, Ghana) and Potato Virus Y (PVY) in the UK. This virus work in the UK is also linked to on-going projects on PVY and cereal viruses through joint PhD studentships with Fera and SASA. In a further joint project with Fera, we are working on yellow rust of wheat, developing molecular markers linked to important traits such as avirulence genes. We are also working on using molecular diagnostics and Alere Array technologies to study microbial populations associated with tomato roots, in an HDC funded project in collaboration with ADAS and commercial tomato growers. In particular, we are examining how different water management regimes affect microbial populations (pathogens and non-pathogens) throughout the growing season, and how these population changes influence the development of diseases.
Other current research is being undertaken through the University of Nottingham links with Malaysia. In joint projects with our Malaysia campus, we are working on ganoderma on oilpalm and also on postharvest diseases of tropical fruits, whilst in a PhD studentship project with the Malaysian Oil Palm Board, we are working on Phytophthora palmivora.