BBSRC-HGCA Black-grass Resistance Initiative

Unravelling herbicide resistance in black-grass from gene to field

Primary Investigators


Dylan Childs

Rob Edwards

Rob Freckleton

Jarrod Hadfield

Paul Neve

Ken Norris

Louise Jones


Post Docs


David Comont

Andrea Dixon

Helen Hicks

Catherine Tetard-Jones

Shaun Coutts

Alexa Varah


Research Assistants


Laura Crook

Richard Hull



Core Project Team


Dylan Childs NERC Research Fellow, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield

I am a population biologist with interests at both the pure and applied ends of the spectrum. I follow an interdisciplinary approach, developing data-driven models to understand population dynamics and natural selection in laboratory and free-living populations. I am particularly keen to understand how demographic, environmental and ecological processes interact to shape selection on key ecological traits. Home page

David Comont Post Doctoral Research Associate, Weed Ecology & Evolution, Rothamsted Research

My principle research interests are the responses and resilience of plant communities facing environmental stresses, and the longer term implications of these. Previous research has focussed on factors affecting the productivity of the forage perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) at sites across Europe. I will be investigating Blackgrass populations across the UK, and developing research which can be applied to managing this weed in the future. Home page

Laura Crook Research Technician, Weed Ecology & Evolution, Rothamsted Research

I have previously worked at the University of Sheffield as a research technician undertaking field experiments on the environmental interactions between seed size and seedling traits in different habitat types. I manage the glasshouse experiments that investigate herbicide resistance in black grass, whilst ensuring that information gathered from the project is fed back into the farming community. I am also interested is how science can interact with policy. Home page

Shaun Coutts Post Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield

I am a quantitative ecologist who uses statistical, analytical and simulation models to look at pressing environmental issues such as invasive species management and wildlife harvest. I also use these approaches to address fundamental questions in ecology such as what drives population dynamics and adaptation to different environmental stressors? This work encompasses a wide range of topics such as population dynamics, community ecology, dispersal ecology, optimisation and social-economic systems. Home page

Rob Edwards Head of School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, University of Newcastle

My interests are focused on the biotransformation of herbicides and other biologically active chemicals in crops and weeds and how this can be used for biotechnological applications and in defining selective toxicity and resistance in plants. Home page

Rob Freckleton Professor of Population Biology, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, Univeristy of Sheffield

I am a population ecologist and evolutionary biologist. I have interests in plant population dynamics and modelling, with special interest in annual weeds. The BGRI project builds on the density-structured modelling approach that my group have recently developed. Home page

Jarrod Hadfield Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh

I am an evolutionary biologist working mainly in the area of quantitative genetics; the study of inheritance, selection and evolution of complex traits. I use a combination of theory, statistical inference and experimentation in order to address questions regarding the form of natural selection and the nature of heritable variation. Home page

Helen Hicks Post Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield

My research interests centre on sustainable agricultural practices and balancing food production with biodiversity conservation. Agricultural policy changes quickly, and the resulting changes to land-use patterns and land management practices can have wide-ranging ecological impacts. I believe strongly in the need to study, quantify and manage these impacts and the importance of knowledge exchange between science, policy makers and landowners. Home page

Paul Neve Senior Research Scientist, Weed Ecology & Evolution, Rothamsted Research

With a particular interest in herbicide resistance, my research is focussed on understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes that result in the establishment, persistence and spread of weed populations in agroecosystems. Working with weed populations, simulation models and model organisms, I investigate strategies for ‘evolution-free’ management of agricultural weeds. Home page

Ken Norris Director of Science, Zoological Society of London

My research focuses on the inter-relationships between land-use, biodiversity and ecosystem services. I am particularly interested in assessing the environmental risks of agricultural systems, and understanding how these risks might be managed. Home page

Catherine Tetard-Jones Post Doctoral Research Associate, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, University of Newcastle

My interests are in charactering mechanisms underpinning evolution of plant defence against environmental stress and mediating elicitors of defence, using a combination of molecular biology, gene expression modelling and ecological bioassays. Home page

Louise Jones Senior Lecturer, Dept of Biology, University of York

I am a plant molecular biologist with research interests in epigenetics and RNA silencing mechanisms. I am studying how plants use these mechanisms to control gene expression and how heritable changes in gene expression can be triggered by abiotic stresses. Home page

Alexa Varah Post Doctoral Research Associate, Zoological Society of London

My research looks at relationships between agricultural systems and biodiversity conservation. I am especially interested in finding ways of maximising food production whilst simultaneously conserving biodiversity and providing other environmental benefits. Home page

Associated Members


Andrea Dixon Post Doctoral Research Associate, Weed Ecology & Evolution, Rothamsted Research

I am a population geneticist interested in how evolutionary and ecological processes shape species’ ranges and plant diversity. Home page

Lieselot Nguyen Research Technician, Weed Ecology & Evolution, Rothamsted Research

Previously, I have been involved in studies assessing the effects of metals on organisms at the University of Lille, France. I am delighted to join the Weed Ecology and Evolution team at Rothamsted Research. I will be working as a research technician helping investigate the molecular ecology of herbicide resistance in Black-grass. Home page

Richard Hull Research Scientist, Weed Ecology & Evolution, Rothamsted Research

I have worked at Rothamsted Research for over 15 years. I'm particularly interested in translating scientific research results into meaningful, practical guidance for farmers and agronomists. I am also working on a CRD funded project, "Developing and promoting more sustainable grass-weed control strategies to combat herbicide resistance" and an HGCA funded project "Sustaining winter cropping rotations under threat from herbicide resistant black grass". Home page