Tracey Morton

Integrated control of Sclerotinia disease in celery and lettuce

Tracey Moreton

My name is Tracey Moreton and I am a PhD student at Warwick University working with Dr John Clarkson and his team looking at the fungal pathogen Sclerotinia on celery and lettuce. I will be based at Warwick and I am also grateful to the Waitrose CTP scheme for their support.

I completed my BSc in “Environmental Biology” at Canterbury Christ Church University where I became very interested in fungal symbiosis and the effects the fungi had on crop yields. My degree project looked at the effects of Trichoderma and Mychorizza on Solanum lycopersicum (micro-tom plants).

I have always believed that the natural environment provides everything we need to control pests and pathogens using other organisms and plants; hence looking at alternatives to using chemicals was the path I wanted to take.

My Masters project was in “Applied Ecology and Conservation and Environmental Management”, which I also completed at Canterbury Christ Church University under the supervision of Dr Christopher Harvey, this allowed me to investigate cherry blight (brown rot) caused by Monilinia fructigena and Monilinia laxa, which is very costly to the growers.  As with many of these fungal pathogens there is no recognised control mechanism, so we must depend on orchard hygiene and prophylactic practices to merely keep the pathogen at bay temporarily. This for me was not a solution to food security or food wastage.

I chose to look at herbs and as we all know, they have been a beneficial part of medical and horticultural practices for many years.  I selected herbs that had high anti-fungal properties, with the idea that I could interrupt the overwintering life cycle of the Monilinia spp. Under laboratory conditions this approach showed promise on several occasions. My aim with this was to look at companion planting of the herbs so that the pathogen may be halted in the overwintering stage in the soil.

I have been given the high privilege of working in an area of research about which I am very enthusiastic. I am looking forward to hopefully helping towards a natural solution for future food security and the development of new working practices against fungal pathogens.