This facility is working to unify collections of plant-pathogenic fungi, plant-associated fungi, bacteria, agricultural weeds, nematodes, pest insects and crop samples, to provide a single outward-facing, searchable specimen database. This brings together the various collections at Fera, Rothamsted Research and CABI in a virtual environment, to improve industry’s ability to search for promising candidate isolates for a new generation of candidate pesticides and bio-pesticides.

Why is there a need

This resource will drive new insights into the population dynamics and management of biotic crop threats. The value of such collections rises over time, as new questions require a historical perspective – only accessible through the collections.  There has also been increasing interest from commercial organisations keen to exploit such collections to extend plant protection product life. CHAPs collection will be an unrivalled resource within the UK for the crop health community, built on optimal storage of new and existing pathogens which will be characterised using state-of-the-art methodologies and which will be vital for identifying crop pathogens and monitoring their spread or mitigating their potential (re)introduction to the UK.

What is the Asset

A complementary new repository of specimen DNA and organisms is being gathered from field sampling networks. CHAP uses its facilities, for example, to grow-on and screen fungal samples, then store and preserve them in liquid nitrogen for future use. This allows us to maintain and provide historic baseline species, isolates, strains and populations of insects and pathogens and weeds that are important biotic threats to UK crop production.

Why is it of interest to industry

These specimens will be used by commercial and academic communities to understand population properties of different biotic crop threats and their variables. Genetically- and geographically-varied field samples of interest to the agrichemical industry can then be tested against the standardised reference collection, an important efficiency support and audit requirement for future product registrations. We can now maintain and provide species, isolates, strains and populations collected in different decades and years to explore the origin and evolution of specific biotic threats, including those that have resulted in market failures.


If you would like more information please contact Alan Buddie at CABI ( or Matthew Ryan (

‘LN tank’ is a stainless steel tank for storing living microbes at below -180°C. This particular unit operates a bit like a thermos flask (in reverse) as the tank has a double layer wall and the LN (i.e. liquid nitrogen) is filled into the space inbetween the inner and outer wall. This approach is used in the medical world, too, particularly for IVF applications. As long as the biological material is cooled carefully (to avoid ice formation which can damage the cells) the organisms can be kept alive but ‘inert’ aznd not subject to ageing or metabolic/genetic change or deterioration.

And this?

‘MALDI’ is a unit called a ‘matrix assisted laser desorption ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometer’ (you can see why people shorten it to ‘MALDI-ToF-MS’). Some models are used in pharma companies in order to characterise novel metabolites and/or potential active ingredients. This unit is actually a Biotyper and allows identification of microorganisms from a spectral profile of their (mainly ribosomal) proteins. You get something like this:

The peaks vary in number, molecular weight and intensity and can be compared across different species. The unit that CHAP paid for comes with a database for >4000 bacteria but only around 200 fungi. As the most significant crop pathogens tend to be fungal, we are trying to create a bespoke database of crop pathogens for CHAP and are making use of CABI’s genetic resources collection of authenticated material to help us do so.