Hayley Ridgway

Senior Scientist, Lincoln

I have a strong focus on the future. The increasing challenge from the global spread of high impact pathogens is clearly a widely-shared concern and a key part of my role is to create new knowledge that will help us prepare for those threats.

I have joined the Plant & Food Research team in Lincoln after 19 years with Lincoln University where I was an Associate Professor in plant microbiology, lecturing in plant pathology, genetics and soil microbiology. My own roots are also in this area as I am from a farming family in Geraldine.

As a senior scientist in the Bioprotection portfolio and member of the Microbial Systems for Plant Protection team my role now focuses on providing leadership in research that will deliver the best outcomes to the industry sectors we work with.

I’ll be working closely with the wine, pipfruit and kiwifruit sectors, and with my colleagues at the forefront of plant science, to support our clients‘ objectives and the national interest. I am also a member of the Bio-protection Research Centre, a collaborative national team focused on advancing research for the productive sectors.

I’ll also be continuing my own research. Plants aren’t just plants. Like animals, they are hosts to a large and complex community of other living organisms, like fungi and bacteria, that can be both beneficial and detrimental to plant growth and health. The ancillary genomes provided by the millions of microbes inhabiting plants shape and extend a plant’s ability to gather nutrients and water from the soil, to produce plant metabolites and to chemically communicate with other organisms. This is a fascinating field with as much potential for optimising plant health as our work in developing disease resistence in individual plants.

I have published 109 peer reviewed papers including work on grapevine trunk diseases, fungi that penetrate the outer layer of plant roots (mycorrhizae), and new strains of rhizobia that can improve nitrogen fixation for legumes. I’m continuing my work on understanding the contribution micro-organisms make to plant resilience, physiology and growth.

I have also supervised more than 50 postgraduate students to completion and I am looking forward to continuing student supervision and capability development to help clear the path towards a secure future for our plant-based industries, and New Zealand as a food producing nation.

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