Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Dr Richard Harrison

Dr Richard Harrison

Director of Cambridge Crop Research, NIAB

Evolutionary genetics and systems modelling

richard.harrison [at]

Richard is the Director of NIAB Cambridge Crop Research (, a part of the NIAB Group, composed of research and service delivery in arable crop genetics, breeding, pathology, biotechnology and data science. 

Richard has a background in evolutionary systems biology of model organisms and was trained in the areas of molecular biology, quantitative genetics and informatics. His research focusses primarily on understanding the evolution and genetic basis of complex traits, such as interactions between plants and microbes, to provide scientific knowledge and solutions to underpin the sustainable development of the agricultural and horticultural industry. His group works across the laboratory, field and as informaticians. 

Through collaborative work with industrial partners his group has delivered quantitative disease resistance traits into commercial breeding programmes of strawberry and apple against multiple primary disease threats in both crops. These are being used in multi-trait genomic prediction approaches to accelerate the commercial deployment of disease resistant varieties with high quality and yield attributes. 

In more fundamental research Richard’s group studies aspects of plant microbe interactions, for example the evolution of the circadian clock in fungi and the relationship between light, temperature and pathogenicity in vascular wilt pathogens. Phylogenomics approaches is used to study the evolution of host range and the underpinning molecular mechanisms controlling host specificity, environmental adaptation and pathogenicity, using Pseudomonas syringae as a model.  

Following a Nuffield farming scholarship looking to the future of crop production, Richard’s interests have broadened to providing long-term data driven and modelling solutions to enable the design of systems that sustain both ecosystem services and food production, by integrating crop genetic variation, system-level crop performance and environmental simulation.


Nellist CF, Armitage AD, Bates HJ, Sobczyk MK, Luberti M, Lewis LA, Harrison RJ. Comparative Analysis of Host-Associated Variation in Phytophthora cactorum. Front Microbiol. 2021 Jul 2;12:679936.

Jenkins S, Taylor A, Jackson AC, Armitage AD, Bates HJ, Mead A, Harrison RJ, Clarkson JP. Identification and Expression of Secreted In Xylem Pathogenicity Genes in Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. pisi. Front Microbiol. 2021 Apr 9;12:593140.

Hulin MT, Jackson RW, Harrison RJ, Mansfield JW. Cherry picking by pseudomonads: After a century of research on canker, genomics provides insights into the evolution of pathogenicity towards stone fruits. Plant Pathol. 2020 Aug;69(6):962–78.

Li B, Cockerton HM, Johnson AW, Karlström A, Stavridou E, Deakin G, Harrison RJ. Defining strawberry shape uniformity using 3D imaging and genetic mapping. Hortic Res. 2020 Aug 1;7(1):115.

Adams TM, Armitage AD, Sobczyk MK, Bates HJ, Tabima JF, Kronmiller BA, Tyler BM, Grünwald NJ, Dunwell JM, Nellist CF, Harrison RJ. Genomic Investigation of the Strawberry Pathogen Phytophthora fragariae Indicates Pathogenicity Is Associated With Transcriptional Variation in Three Key Races. Front Microbiol. 2020 Apr 15;11:490.

Armitage AD, Nellist CF, Bates HJ, Zhang L, Zou X, Gao Q-H, Harrison RJ. Draft Genome Sequence of the Strawberry Anthracnose Pathogen Colletotrichum fructicola. Microbiol Resour Announc. 2020 Mar 19;9(12).

Taylor A, Armitage AD, Handy C, Jackson AC, Hulin MT, Harrison RJ, Clarkson JP. Basal Rot of Narcissus: Understanding Pathogenicity in Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. narcissi. Front Microbiol. 2019 Dec 19;10:2905.

Cockerton HM, Li B, Vickerstaff RJ, Eyre CA, Sargent DJ, Armitage AD, Marina-Montes C, Garcia-Cruz A, Passey AJ, Simpson DW, Harrison RJ. Identifying Verticillium dahliae resistance in strawberry through disease screening of multiple populations and image based phenotyping. Front Plant Sci. 2019 Jul 18;10:924.

Wilson FM, Harrison K, Armitage AD, Simkin AJ, Harrison RJ. CRISPR/Cas9-mediated mutagenesis of phytoene desaturase in diploid and octoploid strawberry. Plant Methods. 2019 May 2;15:45.

Armitage AD, Taylor A, Sobczyk MK, Baxter L, Greenfield BPJ, Bates HJ, Wilson F, Jackson AC, Ott S, Harrison RJ, Clarkson JP. Characterisation of pathogen-specific regions and novel effector candidates in Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cepae. Sci Rep. 2018 Sep 10;8(1):13530.

Hulin MT, Armitage AD, Vicente JG, Holub EB, Baxter L, Bates HJ, Mansfield JW, Jackson RW, Harrison RJ. Comparative genomics of Pseudomonas syringae reveals convergent gene gain and loss associated with specialization onto cherry (Prunus avium). New Phytol. 2018 Jul;219(2):672–96.