The Harrison Lab

Research in The Harrison Lab at EMR focuses on genetically complex crops such as strawberry, apple and broadleaf tree species and is directed towards understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling resistance to a range of plant pathogens. The group also seeks to understand the evolutionary process that occur between pathogens and plants, specifically the evolution of host resistance and pathogen virulence and in the case of strawberry, the role that polyploidy plays in these interactions. Many of the current research projects that I lead have a translational component that aims to utilise information about the pathogen’s effector gene complement to enable plant breeders to select and pyramid resistance. In order to carry out translational genomics work in non-model crops, part of the group develop tools for the analysis of complex, highly heterozygous genomes.

Satellite research projects focus on interactions between beneficial fungi and plant hosts, fungal pathogen interactions in insects (and mechanisms of host resistance) and the use of fungi related to plant pathogens in biotechnology. All research sits within the broad area of improving food security and plant health. I have extensive skills in molecular biology and bioinformatics and my research group comprises of both laboratory based and computational biologists.

The group also provides a bridge between research and commercial exploitation of scientific knowledge, by assisting plant breeders in the development of molecular markers for use in breeding programmes. These include markers for fruit quality, flowering time and ongoing work in nutrient use efficiency markers.

Collaboration with industry

At EMR there is a strong emphasis on industrial collaborations and in the Harrison Lab we have links with many different sectors of the horticultural industry, from plant breeders to marketing bodies to instrument manufacturers. We receive support from the Innovate UK and AHDB Horticulture for a number of industry-led projects.  Funding in the new EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation  Horizon 2020 places Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) at the heart of research and we are keen to engage with SME’s in collaborative research.

We are always keen to talk to industry and engage in collaborative research; please contact Dr Richard Harrison to discuss your ideas.


Harrison Lab Publications

Publications from the group since 2010 Robinson Boyer L.,Wei F., Gulbis N., Hajdu K., Harrison R.J., Jeffries P and Xu X The Use of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi to Improve Strawberry Production in Coir Substrate, Frontiers in Plant Science (Accepted) doi: … Continue Reading


Visiting Students and Scientists and former lab members

Former staff and students Dr Laima Antanaviciute – PhD Oct 2012- July 2016 – postdoc at Clemson Uni Dr Laura Lewis- postdoc 2012-2014   Lab visitors Each year there are visitors to the lab, via various exchange programmes. This page … Continue Reading


DNA sequencing facility

EMR operates an Illumina MiSeq system which offers upto 300bp PE reads, yielding a maximum of ~15 GigaBases of data from a single run. This is ideal for fungal DNA sequencing, small plant genomes and transcript discovery. If you are … Continue Reading


The Genomite Project

FACCE ERA-NET+ New generation sustainable tools to control emerging mite pests under climate change Below is a brief summary of the Genomite project. For additional information please visit the main Genomite Project page. The Challenge Climate change will have serious … Continue Reading


Resources for future breeding of apple utilising genome wide selection

Project aim: To identify and plant a replicated set of near elite germplasm for phenotypying as part of work towards genomic selection Project objective(s): To identify a set of germplasm that captures the majority of important phenotypic variation for a … Continue Reading


QTL identification and phenotyping of fruit quality and disease resistance traits in octoploid strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa)

PhD project- Laima Antanaviciute The cultivated strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) has a complex octoploid genome and it is only recently that sizeable numbers of markers have been developed for breeding purposes, as part of marker-assisted breeding (MAB) programmes. The main … Continue Reading


Understanding host specificity of Pseudomonas syringae on the Prunus species cherry and plum

PhD project- Michelle Hulin Pseudomonas syringae is globally important plant pathogen and model organism in the study of plant and microbe interactions. It has a broad host range, infecting over 180 plant species, which include many high-value crops.  The species … Continue Reading


Exploiting next generation sequencing technologies to understand pathology and resistance to Fusarium

Onion is a major crop across the world and as such is the second most valuable vegetable crop tomato. Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cepae causes basal rot of onion. In the UK alone postharvest losses due to F. oxysporum f. … Continue Reading


Developing robustness to biotic stress in fruit crops

Strawberries contribute to a nutritious and healthy diet and are an important UK crop. Increasing restrictions in chemical disease controls mean that existing varieties will soon be unsuitable for sustainable production in the soil. Verticillium wilt is one of the … Continue Reading


Pesticide resistance in codling moth

The work in this proposal is designed to screen for insecticide resistance in UK populations of codling moth, and to identify the genomic location of insecticide resistances to several insecticides in the wider European population of codling moth. The identification … Continue Reading


IDRIS – Improving Disease Resistance In Strawberry

The Harrison lab has commenced a 5 year programme aimed at improving the level of  disease resistance to two globally important pathogens, Phytophthora fragariae and Phytophthora cactorum. This project is a collaboration with the Kamoun lab at TSL, Norwich. Funding is provided by the … Continue Reading


Nornex – understanding ash dieback

EMR is part of the multi-partner consortium working to gather information about the invasive ash pathogen Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus and any resistance present in a UK collection of our native ash Fraxinus excelsior. As part of this project EMR is characterising key morphology traits of … Continue Reading

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