My research focuses on an optimally integrated approach to tackling plant pathogens. Plant pathogens are one of the most complex challenges faced by growers of potatoes and vegetable crops. Knowledge is lacking in many areas and there is no magic-bullet solution. Issues include resistance levels in specific varieties, cultivation measures and climate conditions. Another factor is plant stress: what causes it, what effect does it have on the plant and what is the connection between stress and plant pathogens? For regular cultivation, crop protection is a vital factor in combating plant pathogens. Integrated research into the active ingredients of various crop-protection agents and their effectiveness is vital in this regard.
My work transcends the borders of the Netherlands. For example, I am involved in training projects for vegetable growers in countries with subtropical climates who lack necessary knowledge. The expertise I provide relates to crop protection for open crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, chilli peppers and onions. Their knowledge of crop protection and its environmental impact is lacking, so it is vital we share the knowledge available to us in the Netherlands regarding resistance management, dosages, registration of agrochemicals and toxicity.
EuroBlight: the essential European knowledge network
I believe knowledge exchange is vital: every discipline, soil type, climate and variety demands a specific approach, and as there's so much we don't know, it's vital everyone shares what they do know. For potato cultivation, this knowledge is shared via the EuroBlight network, of which I'm an active participant. EuroBlight is a European network of scientists and other specialists in the field of potato diseases such as Alternaria and Phytophthora. The network was set up to facilitate knowledge sharing. Once every two years, I organise a physical meeting for all members of the network together with two other members. Via EuroBlight, I maintain close contact with professional practice and we fulfil a vital monitoring function that provides extra support to existing field-research efforts.
Every year, EuroBlight publishes effectiveness tables for measures combating late blight (Phytophthora infestans) and Alternaria (Alternaria solani) in potatoes and tomatoes during the field season. (EuroBlight score tables). The scores for measures against P. infestans are based on independent tests conducted by EuroBlight over many years in various locations in Europe. All other scores are based on expert knowledge provided by companies and EuroBlight members.