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Laura Grenville-Briggs Didymus

Laura Grenville-Briggs Didymus
Professor of Integrated Plant Protection and Head of the Integrated Plant Protection Unit at the Department of Plant Protection Biology

Presentation

As well as leading the Integrated Plant Protection Unit, I also lead my own research group, the Plant Pathology Lab. My own research group focuses on the molecular and genetic determinants of disease in oomycete and fungal plant pathogens in combination with molecular analysis of interactions between microbial biocontrol agents and their prey along with the soil rhizosphere microbiome communities. We combine these mechanistic studies with applied research, testing combinations of biocontrol agents, plant probiotics and plant resistance inducers and disease modeling strategies, for effective disease control. This information is used to develop more durable, environmentally sustainable integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for plant diseases that are applicable both for large scale Swedish farmers and for smallholder farmers in Western Africa.

We focus on both horticultural and agricultural crops, including potato, sugarbeet and cocoa. 

Teaching

Course leader: BI1267 (MSc) Integrated Pest Management in Sustainable Production Systems.

Research

Work in my group, is currently funded by the Swedish Research Council Formas, Swedish Research Council VR, The EU (Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Network PROTECTA (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2017-766048) and H2020 program grant Organic Plus,  SLU Grogrund, The Crafoord Foundation and the Carl Tryggers Foundation, and is focused around the following projects:

1. Pathogen-Informed Resisance To Oomycete Diseases in Ecosystems, Agriculture and Aquaculture (PROTECTA)

In this H2020-MSCA-ITN EU project we are working across Europe to understand effector biology, host resistance, biological control and management strategies for oomycete diseases across different sectors. 15 early stage researchers (PhD students) are involved in the project from diverse European labs. read more at the project website: www.protecta-itn.eu

2. The expression and evolution of Phytophthora infestans effectors in potato fields and implications for disease control.

In this project we are using an eco-evolutionary approach to understand how P. infestans adapts effector expression to avoid host recognition within an agricultural field setting. We are using a combination of genomic, genetic and evolutionary methods to study this.

3. Exploiting the biological activity, and effector repertoire, of the mycoparasitic oomycete Pythium oligandrum for disease control.

In this project we are interested in further developing P. oligandrum for use as a BCA. To do this, we study the biology of P. oligandrum, the pathogenicity determinants produced during host colonization and the survival and adaptation of this BCA in field conditions. We also study the interaction between the BCA and the pathobiome (the disease causing microbial community) and the natural potato rhizosphere soil microbial communities (the microbiome) to understand the impact and interactions of this BCA with other microbes to improve potato and soil health in the field.

4. Breeding for Biologicals: Plant breeding for optimized interactions between crops and biologicals to enhance pest management and production with reduced agrochemical use 

I this project we aim to (1) identify the plant genes that are needed for successful promotion by microorganisms (biological control agents) and (2) develop optimal methodologies to implement the new knowledge into breeding and to (3) optimize methodologies (e.g., seed- and leaf applications) needed for utilising the breeding benefits in agriculture. 

5. Towards sustainable cocoa production in Western Africa: epidemiology and control of cooca black pod disease and cocoa swollen shoot virus

In this project we are working with smallholder farmers to study the epidemiology and practical development of IPM control strategies for cocoa diseases in Sierre Leone, Togo and Nigeria.

6. Comparative genomics and transcriptomics of diverse and understudied oomycetes including sequencing the genomes and transcriptomes of:

◦       The Mycoparasites Pythium oligandrum and Pythium periplocum

◦       The entomopathogenic oomycete BCA Lagenidium giganteum

◦       The emerging food security threat, Phytophthora colocasiae (Taro leaf blight)

7. Comparative molecular analysis of the early blight fungus (Alternaria solani) and the late blight oomycete (Phytophthora infestans) and identification of core effectors as new targets for resistance breeding strategies.

In this project, we are studying competition or synergism between multiple pathogens on the same host plant and the implications of these interactions for disease control.

8. Organic Plus

In this H2020 EU funded project, led by the University of Coventry, UK, we are working towards development and testing of biological control solutions for organic potato farming in Europe. Read more at the project website: Organic-plus.net

Cooperation

We have a large international collaboration network.

Please see www.protecta-itn.eu and www.organic-plus.net for a list of collaborators in those EU projects.

Industry collaborations include sugar beet breeding company Maribohilleshög AB and the potato starch producers association of Sweden, Lyckeby Starch AB as well as cereal breeding company Lantmännen AB.

We also collaborate with the IITA (Nigeria), and Njala University (Sierra Leone) in our cocoa black pod project.

Background

2014-2018 Senior Researcher and group leader, Resistance Biology Unit, Department of Plant Protection Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

2006-2014. 39 months parental leave taken post-PhD

(including periods in Sweden and UK)

2012. Associate Professor  (Docent) in Microbial glycobiology, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

 2011-2013. Senior Researcher and Marie Curie Intra-European Research Fellow, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

2011. Post-graduate certificate of higher education teaching and learning, University of Aberdeen, UK.

2008-2011. Senior research fellow, Aberdeen Oomycete Laboratory, University of Aberdeen, UK.

2003-2008. Post-doctoral research fellow, Aberdeen Oomycete Laboratory, University of Aberdeen, UK.

2003. PhD in Microbial genetics/plant pathology, HRI, Wellesbourne and University of Birmingham, UK.

Supervision

PhD students:

Sidhant Chaudhary 2021-2024 SLU, co-supervisor

Valentina Rossi 2019-2023 Industry PhD SLU & Maribohilleshög, main supervisor

Jenifer Seematti Sundar 2019-2023 SLU, main supervisor

Christian Benjamin Andersen 2019-2023 SLU, main supervisor

Murilo Araujo Sandroni 2019-2023 SLU, co-supervisor

Magdalena Scislak 2019-2022 University of Aberdeen UK, co-supervisor

Mohamed Luseni 2018- 2022. SLU, main supervisor

Dong Liang 2018- 2020. Nanjing Agricultural University, China, co-supervisor.

Linnea Almqvist 2018- 2023. Industry PhD, SLU & Lyckeby Starch co-supervisor

Sophie Brower 2016-2021. SLU co-supervisor

Maja Brus 2015-2019. SLU, main supervisor

Mira Rur 2014-2017. SLU, co-supervisor (licenciate student)

Andrew Savory 2009-2013 University of Aberdeen, UK, co-supervisor

Martina Strittmatter 2007-2010 University of Aberdeen, UK, co-supervisor

Neil Horner 2006-2009  University of Aberdeen, UK, co-supervisor

Post-doctoral Fellows/Researchers

Bradley Dotson          2021-2025 (SLU, main supervisor, SLU Grogrund funded)

Cassidy Million         2018-2019 (SLU, main supervisor, Carl Tryggers funded)

Diya Sen                     2017-2019 (SLU, main supervisor, Crafoord funded)

Ramesh Vetukuri       2014-2019 (SLU, main supervisor, SSF funded).

Laura Masini              2015-2016 (SLU, co-supervised with Åsa Lankinen (Carl Tryggers funded).


Contact

Professor at the Institutionen för växtskyddsbiologi
Telephone: +4640-41 52 47
Postal address:
Växtskyddsbiologi, Box 102
23053 Alnarp
Visiting address: Sundsvägen 16, Alnarp

Publications list: