Richard is the Director of NIAB Cambridge Crop Research (https://www.niab.com/about/people/dr-richard-harrison), a part of the NIAB Group, composed of research and service delivery in arable crop genetics, breeding, pathology, biotechnology and data science.
Richard has a background in evolutionary systems biology of model organisms and was trained in the areas of molecular biology, quantitative genetics and informatics. His research focusses primarily on understanding the evolution and genetic basis of complex traits, such as interactions between plants and microbes, to provide scientific knowledge and solutions to underpin the sustainable development of the agricultural and horticultural industry. His group works across the laboratory, field and as informaticians.
Through collaborative work with industrial partners his group has delivered quantitative disease resistance traits into commercial breeding programmes of strawberry and apple against multiple primary disease threats in both crops. These are being used in multi-trait genomic prediction approaches to accelerate the commercial deployment of disease resistant varieties with high quality and yield attributes.
In more fundamental research Richard’s group studies aspects of plant microbe interactions, for example the evolution of the circadian clock in fungi and the relationship between light, temperature and pathogenicity in vascular wilt pathogens. Phylogenomics approaches is used to study the evolution of host range and the underpinning molecular mechanisms controlling host specificity, environmental adaptation and pathogenicity, using Pseudomonas syringae as a model.
Following a Nuffield farming scholarship looking to the future of crop production, Richard’s interests have broadened to providing long-term data driven and modelling solutions to enable the design of systems that sustain both ecosystem services and food production, by integrating crop genetic variation, system-level crop performance and environmental simulation.