Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Tom Thirkell

Tom Thirkell

Harvest co-ordinator
Sustainable crop nutrition


I’m a plant physiological ecologist with interests in sustainable agriculture, crop nutrition and soil microbial ecology. My work focusses on the interactions between crop plants and soil microbes, especially the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. At the Crop Science Centre, I'm using complimentary greenhouse and field trial experiments to investigate the role of mycorrhizas in crop nutrition. Specifically, I am looking at the role of plant nutrient sensing in determining mycorrhizal benefit to barley, and exploring the potential to breed cereals for improved interactions with these fungal symbionts.


 Contrasting Nitrogen Fertilisation Rates Alter Mycorrhizal Contribution to Barley Nutrition in a Field Trial.

Thirkell T, Cameron D, Hodge A.Front Plant Sci. 2019 Oct 30;10:1312. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.01312. eCollection 2019.PMID: 31736991 Free PMC article.

 Carbon for nutrient exchange between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and wheat varies according to cultivar and changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.

Thirkell TJ, Pastok D, Field KJ.Glob Chang Biol. 2020 Mar;26(3):1725-1738. doi: 10.1111/gcb.14851. Epub 2019 Oct 23.PMID: 31645088 Free PMC article.

 Resolving the 'nitrogen paradox' of arbuscular mycorrhizas: fertilization with organic matter brings considerable benefits for plant nutrition and growth.

Thirkell TJ, Cameron DD, Hodge A.Plant Cell Environ. 2016 Aug;39(8):1683-90. doi: 10.1111/pce.12667. Epub 2016 Feb 10.PMID: 26510552 Free PMC article

Are mycorrhizal fungi our sustainable saviours? Considerations for achieving food security. 2017.

TJ Thirkell, MD Charters, AJ Elliott, SM Sait, KJ Field. Journal of Ecology 105 (4), 921-929

Cultivar-dependent increases in mycorrhizal nutrient acquisition by barley in response to elevated CO2. 2021. 

TJ Thirkell, M Campbell, J Driver, D Pastok, B Merry, KJ Field. Plants, People, Planet 3 (5), 553-566

The emerging threat of human-use antifungals in sustainable and circular agricultural systems. 2021.

JB Sallach, TJ Thirkell, KJ Field, LJ Carter. Plants, People, Planet. DOI: 10.1002/ppp3.10222

The use of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to improve root function and nutrient use efficiency. 2021. Thirkell, T.J., Hoysted, G., Elliott, A., Field, K. J., Daniell, T. J. 2021. . (Chapter in: Understanding and Improving Crop Root Function). Burleigh Dodds Scientific Publishing.