Mushroom experts find new home at East Malling Research

Two leading mushroom experts who worked at the University of Warwick's former Horticultural Resource Institute (HRI) in Wellesbourne have taken new posts at East Malling Research (EMR) in Kent.

Experts said their move to EMR helped to secure the long-term future of UK-based mushroom research and development after the University of Warwick streamlined its horticultural resource.

Dr Kerry Burton, internationally recognised for his expertise in biochemistry, molecular genetics and the developmental biology of fungi and plants, has joined EMR as a senior research leader.

In January Burton will be joined by Professor Ralph Noble, with whom he has worked at HRI Warwick for many years.

Burton said: "My move to EMR was a very positive one and has been well received by the mushroom industry. It was exciting to be given the opportunity to combine applied science and work in an industry-facing organisation."

Burton's work has increasingly used genome micro-arrays to focus on disease and physiological disorders, following the release of the mushroom genome early this year.

He is currently working on a diagnostic test for the Mushroom Virus X (MVX), which predicts the disease before it develops and will eventually be available commercially as an early warning system for growers.

He said he hoped his work with mushrooms had the potential to be transferred to other minor, non-cereal crops, thanks to the falling costs of genomics research, and planned to build a research team in his new post that calls upon EMR's other scientific expertise.

He added: "EMR did some excellent work in transferring its technologies and what it learned about water management, for example, from nursery stock, to strawberries and new potatoes.

"I believe I can do the same with key elements of my research to help the growers of many other crops. EMR's approach and openness to transfer and sharing research within the wider team is to be applauded."

Mushroom agronomist Noble is also a 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 is expected to play an important and ongoing role in protecting UK mushroom research capabilities.

EMR chief executive Dr Mike Solomon said: "EMR is delighted to provide a home for Burton's new team and in so doing help to protect the scientific knowledge that has been amassed through his 30 years-plus experience in the field of mushroom research.

"Kerry and Ralph bring other scientific skills and contacts that will complement those of the existing EMR research team."

Dr John Collier, chairman of the Horticultural Development Company's (HDC) mushroom panel, said: "It is vital that the UK mushroom industry continues to have access to applied scientific research if it is to remain competitive.

"The HDC strongly supports and welcomes the move by scientists Kerry Burton and Ralph Noble to the EMR."

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