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Plant health expert given lifetime achievement award

Professor Ian Toth
Professor Ian Toth

Dundee-based senior scientist Professor Ian Toth has been presented with the British potato industry’s lifetime achievement award in honour of his contribution to plant health research.

Prof Toth, a globally recognised potato bacterial disease expert, is also director of Scotland’s Plant Heath Centre at the James Hutton Institute (JHI).

As a regular speaker at meetings and events, Prof Toth is well known to the industry as an authority on potential solutions to pests and pathogen.

Blackleg, the most damaging bacterial plant pathogen in the UK, is one of his specialities.

AHDB Potatoes chairwoman Alison Levett said: “Mention the phrase potato disease and Ian Toth’s name quickly comes into the discussion.

“Ian was trained under Michel Pérombelon at the Scottish Crop Research Institute but quickly became the go-to person in the potato industry for all things blackleg and soft rot-related, and has more recently been working with the industry on a long-term strategy to control potato cyst nematode.

“Through a series of rigorous scientific studies and an innate ability to collaborate, particularly with industry, Ian became the head of the weeds, pests and pathogens theme at the James Hutton Institute.

“He was responsible for delivering solutions for controlling blackleg throughout the potato supply chain and extending this knowledge into other potato bacterial diseases.”

Prof Toth was recently awarded a £2 million grant to lead a bacteria diseases initiative on blackleg.

Meanwhile, the winner of the sector’s Above and Beyond award is Andrew Francis, a first-generation farmer who has devoted his career to industry research and development and promoting the UK agriculture industry.

He is farms director at Elveden Farms and an enthusiastic adopter of science and innovation, and uses the latest research to conduct in-house trials, including hosting the Strategic Potato (SPot) East Farm from 2016-19.

The Dr James Hardie Award for 2020 has been awarded to Margaret (Mags) Skinner of the AHDB by the Pre Basic Growers Association.

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