Personal profile

Research interests

Research on epidemiology, modelling, forecasting, diagnosis and control of diseases of arable crops in relation to climate change. Mechanisms and models of pathogen spore dispersal by wind and rain. Effects of rainfall, temperature, leaf wetness on stages in the development of disease epidemics (spore germination, infection, latent period, incubation period, sporulation). Mathematical models of epidemic progress. Diagnosis of symptomless and complex infections by mycological, molecular and immunological methods. Optimising fungicide use in arable crops in relation to development of rational disease control strategies. Yield loss/disease severity relationships. Forecasting risk of severe disease epidemics for regions and individual crops in relation to adaptation to climate change. Crop disease control for climate change mitigation.


Bachelor of Arts (1st class, Cambridge 1973)

PhD (Imperial College 1977)



Bruce Fitt is Emertus Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Hertfordshire. He led a Crop Protection and Climate Change research group, with two Professors, one Reader, four postdoctoral research fellows, seven PhD students and several MSc students, until July 2023. He also led the University of Hertfordshire Research Excellence Framework submission to the UK government on Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences in 2014 and 2021. He was a member of the research executive group of the School of Life and Medical Sciences. He was co-leader of the Centre for Agriculture, Food and Environmental Management University Research Centre.

Research Highlights

New insights into operation of resistance against hemibiotrophic crop pathogens (Huang et al. 2006; Boys et al. 2012). Demonstrated that crop disease control contributes to climate change mitigation (reduced GHG from agriculture, Mahmuti et al. 2009; Fitt et al. 2011; Hughes et al. 2011). Research on impacts of climate change on crop diseases (Evans et al. 2008; Butterworth et al. 2010) presented at House of Lords (2010). Use of quantitative PCR in analysis of 160-year Rothamsted archive samples to produce new theories about wheat septoria diseases (Bearchell et al. PNAS, 2005; Shaw et al. 2008) and with spore sampling to forecast disease epidemics (West et al. 2008; Van de Wouw et al. 2010). Web-based versions of forecasts for oilseed rape diseases (e.g. Welham et al. 2004; Stonard et al., 2010) widely used by UK industry (since 1996).

Teaching specialisms

Posts held

Professor of Plant Pathology, University of Hertfordshire (2011-Present)

Principal Investigator, Rothamsted Research (Leader Plant-Pathogen-Climate Interactions Group) 1993-2010

Senior Scientific Officer (1984-1993)

Higher Scientific Officer (1977-1984)

Management of staff and supervision of PhD students

He has managed more than 30 post-docs and more than 30 other graduate staff, and supervised more than 35 PhD students since 1981. These staff and students have come from the UK, Austria, Australia, China, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Italy, Lebanon, Malaysia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Turkey. These have included staff or students who have gone on to senior management positions in research institutes (e.g. Chinese Oil Crops Research Institute) and funders (e.g. Defra, AHDB) and others who have published papers in Nature.


Commercial and public engagement

International Conferences

He has given more than 30 keynote and invited presentations at international conferences since 1982, in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Poland, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, USA and the UK.


He has obtained funding worth more than £11M since 1980 from organisations such as the BBSRC, Defra (MAFF), EU, USA (EPA), Australia (GRDC), Greek, Malaysian & Chinese governments, British Council, Royal Society, charitable trusts, agrochemical and breeding companies and Technology Strategy Board.

Funding since 2011:

Perry Foundation. PhD studentship. Origins of rhynchosporium epidemics in barley crops. (£94720) (2008-2012)

Defra. Extension to commission FO0302 (Mycotoxin-producing Fusarium species and related pathogenic fungi in cereal crops)  (£360000) (Sept 2009-March 2012)

Defra. SAIN project with China on adaptation to climate change.  (£137,500) (2010-2013)

TSB (SIBLINGS). Symptomless rhynchosporium on barley.  (£130000). (5 years from 1 October 2010).

BBRSC LINK Understanding resistance to decrease risk of severe phoma stem canker on oilseed rape.(£516000, BBSRC)(£204000, industry). 11 other partners (£200000 in kind). (Dec 2010-Nov 2014)

Malaysian Government. PhD studentship. £100000. (May 2011-Oct 2014)

Chadacre Trust. John Oldacre Trust. Crop diseases and adaptation to climate change. Contribution to BBSRC Industry CASE PhD (with Reading Univ, ADAS). £35000. (Feb 2012-

PhD studentship. Interactions between  fungicides, phoma stem canker pathogens, disease severity and yield. Felix Thornley/Perry Foundation. DuPont. £90000. Oct 2011-Sept 2014

PhD studentship (p/t). Durability of resistance against Leptospohaeria maculans. Perry Foundation/NFU Mutual, bredding companies. (£60000). April 2012-Nov 2016.

EU Marie Curie Fellowship (Dr Henrik Stotz). Durable resistance. (c. £300000) Jan2013-Dec2015.

PhD studentship. Understanding oilseed rape (Brassica napus) resistance against Pyrenopeziza brassicae for control of light leaf spot. AHDB. GEN foundation. (£70000). Aug 2014-Dec 2018.

Defra OREGIN (Oilseed RapE Genetic Improvement Network). £143,145 to UH (2011-2021)

PhD studentship. Improved management of light leaf spot in brassicas by exploiting resistance and understanding pathogen variation. AHDB. Breeders. Trusts. £104, 104. (aug 2013-2021)

Innovate UK/BBSRC. Strategies to increase durability of host resistance for effective control of phoma stem canker on oilseed rape. Partners Hutchinsons; oilseedrape breeders; farmer. £116, 649. Sept 2015-Aug 2018.

Innovate UK Agri-Tech/BBSRC. Integrated control of Leptosphaeria pathogens on UK oilseed rape. £375,166 to UH. Partners Hutchinsons;Corteva;KWS, Syntech, farmers. Oct 2016-Mar 20920.

BBSRC KTN CASE PhD studentship. Sustainable yield of oilseed rape through improved resistance against Leptosphaeria maculans. £110,042 to UH. (Partners LS Plant Breeding and Chadacre Agricultural Trust). Oct 2015-Sept 2019.

ERA-CAPS/BBSRC project. Mechanistic Analysis of Quantitative Disease Resistance in Brassica by Associative Transcriptomics (MAQBAT); £350,683 to UH. (Partners John Innes Centre, in Poland, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, including KWS, oilseed rape breeder). Sep 2015-Aug 2018.

PhD studentship. Importance of Leptosphaeria maculans and L. biglobosa in causing phoma stem canker on winter oilseed rape in England. Felix Cobbold Trust £47,500. Supporting AHDB project (£120,000). Sep 2015-Aug 2018.

PhD studentship. Understanding R gene-mediated resistance to Leptosphaeria maculans for effective control of phoma stem canker in oilseed rape. Perry Foundation, Chadacre Agricultual Trust £45,000. July 2015-March 2020.

Two HKEP PhD studentships with partner RSK ADAS. 1. Understanding interactions between fungal pathogens Leptosphaeria maculans (phoma stem canker) and Pyrenopeziza brassicae (light leaf spot) on Brassica napus (oilseed rape). Oct 2017-Sep 2021. 2. Understanding host resistance to improve control of light leaf spot on winter oilseed rape in the UK. Total £207,274.

BEIS/British Council. Newton-Mosharafa with Egyptian partners. Impacts of climate change on occurrence and distribution of pathogenic seed-borne fungi of wheat and maize in Egypt. April 2018-March 2021. £106,136.

BEIS/BBSRC. Newton-Bhabha with partners in India. Genomics-led improvement of biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in mustard rape for economic and environmental sustainability. Oct 2018-Aug 2022.

Walsh PhD studentship (Eire). Population dynamics of Pyrenopeziza brassicae under Irish field conditions. With Teagasc & RSK ADAS. Jan 2019-Dec 2021. £61,200.

BEIS/British Council. Newton-Mosharafa with Egyptian partners. Developing adaptation strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on diseaes of wheat and maize and food production in Egypt. £79,978. 1 Aug 2021-31 July 2023.



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