New future for mushroom research in the UK

December 23, 2010

Kerry Burton and Ralph Noble, both well recognized as important mushroom researchers, have made the move to the private owned East Malling Research (EMR) in Kent. The future of mushroom research in the UK is therefore guaranteed.

Their former employer, HRI Warwick, will cease to exist in its current form. HRI Warwick, according to Dr Rosemary Collier, has merged into a new “school of life sciences”. Dr Collier is the new director of the new Crop Centre in Warwick. She explains: “Due to cuts in our budget, from 2011 we could only employ 1 of our 2 researchers that have experience in the field of cultivated mushrooms. Our first intention was to keep mushroom research going, but both Dr Burton and Dr Noble found new employment. Therefore we will cease our mushroom research.”

East Malling Research
Dr Kerry Burton, internationally recognised for his research expertise in biochemistry and molecular genetics and developmental biology of fungi and plants, has joined EMR as Senior Research Leader.
Describing his work as stretching from high level basic science, and in particular genomics, to practical solutions that directly assist growers, Dr Burton, said: “My move to EMR is a very positive one and has been well received by the mushroom industry. It is also exciting to be given the opportunity to combine applied science and work in an industry-facing organisation.”
Following the release of the mushroom genome in early 2010, Dr Burton’s work has increasingly used genome micro-arrays to focus on disease, and physiological disorders. He is currently working on a diagnostic test for the Mushroom Virus X (MVX) which predicts the disease before it develops and will be an invaluable commercial early warning system for growers. He is also planning to expand his interests in improving the quality of horticultural produce.

Other crops
Dr Burton believes his work with mushrooms has the potential to be transferred to other minor crops (non-cereal) thanks to the falling costs of genomics research. He added: “EMR has done some excellent work in transfer its technologies and what it has learned in for example water management from nursery stock to strawberries to now potatoes, and I believe I can do the same with key elements of my research to help the growers of many other crops. EMR’s openness to transfer and share research within the team is to be applauded.”
Already working with one PhD student, Dr Kerry Burton will be building a research team that also calls upon EMR’s other scientific expertise.
In January, Dr Burton will be joined by Professor Ralph Noble who he has worked with at HRI Warwick for many years. As well as being an expert mushroom agronomist, Professor Noble is a UK specialist in the use of waste materials in horticultural growing media and the eradication of pathogens during composting. His work on waste composting, use of suppressive composts to control soil-borne pathogens and controlled composting technology, will play an important and ongoing role in protecting the UK’s mushroom research capabilities.

Scientific skills
Commenting on Dr Burton’s arrival, Dr Mike Solomon, Chief Executive of EMR, said: “EMR is delighted to provide a home for the new team and in so doing help to protect the scientific knowledge that he has amassed through his 30 years plus experience in the field of mushroom research. “EMR is delighted to be providing a home for the new team and, in so doing, safeguard the major part of the UK’s mushroom R&D capability and expertise. In addition, Kerry and Ralph bring other scientific skills and contacts that will complement those of the existing EMR research team.”
Dr John Collier, Chairman of HDC’s (Horticultural Development Company) Mushroom Panel, said: “It is vital that the mushroom industry continues to have access to applied scientific research if it is to remain competitive. HDC strongly support and welcome the move by Kerry Burton and Ralph Noble to East Malling Research.”

On the photograph: At the November meeting of the HDC Mushroom Panel: (from left) Dr Kerry Burton (EMR), George Pointing (HDC Mushroom Panel), Dr John Collier (Chairman, Mushroom Panel), Mark Komatsu (former Chairman, Mushroom Panel), Richard Gaze (Mushroom Panel), Prof. Ralph Noble (EMR), John Rothwell (Mushroom Panel), Dr Mike Solomon (Chief Executive, EMR)



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