Dr Sarah Holdgate


Sarah started her career as a plant pathologist in the lecture theatres of the University of Bath where former president Dr Richard Cooper provided inspiration and an undergraduate project on the Ganoderma boninense-oil palm pathosystem. A BSPP vacation studentship at Rothamsted in the group of Prof Kim Hammond-Kosack looking at pathogenicity mutants of the cereal pathogen Fusarium graminearum led to a research assistant post for a year in the group followed by a PhD investigating host resistance to Fusarium ear blight. The practical skills developed during the project prepared Sarah well for her subsequent position as plant breeding pathologist at RAGT Seeds where she managed the European Pathology Support Group for just under five years. This position involved trialling advanced material for the UK wheat breeding programme as well as the breeding programmes in France, Germany and the Czech Republic. In addition to this Sarah also provided advice on pathology-related topics and helped develop breeding strategies to balance disease resistance with other important characters such as yield and grain quality. Most recently Sarah has taken the role of managing the Cereal Pathology group at NIAB, with responsibility for managing the UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS), bringing Sarah back into contact with her favourite pathogens - the rusts. Monitoring the populations of yellow rust, brown rust and powdery mildew the survey aims to alert the farming community to changes which may adversely affect production. In addition to the UKCPVS, Sarah's team also run a number of trials testing of material as part of National and Recommended List pathology trials.