Strategies for quantifying and controlling free-living nematode populations and consequent damage by Tobacco Rattle Virus to improve potato yield and growth – funded by the Technology Strategy Board, (Began January 2011, 5 year project) this multi-partner collaboration combining the expertise of industry with colleagues at The James Hutton Institute (Roy Neilson, Vivian Blok and Finlay Dale) and SAC (Andy Evans) aims to address concerns in the UK potato industry related to the impending withdrawal of approved nematicides and long-term concerns regarding the effects of climate change on free-living nematode populations. The project aims to develop a rapid molecular pre-plant molecular test for the target nematodes of concern, assess damage threshold levels of nematodes on current potato cultivars, identify potential alternative control strategies and develop molecular markers to facilitate the breeding of new potato cultivars resistant to Tobacco Rattle Virus.

Invasive New Zealand flatworm study. We are utilising a large historical collection of invasive flatworms held at The James Hutton Institute in combination with new samples sent in by the public to investigate any changes in the flatworm genome that could be indicative of adaptation to our climate (With Roy Neilson and Brian Boag).

Prevalence study of Pratylenchus species. Utilising samples brought in for other projects we are studying the prevalence and distribution of Pratylenchus species in Scottish potato-growing fields using a combination of taxonomy, species-specific PCR and sequence analysis.

Past research

  • 2011- current Post Doctoral Research. Ecological Sciences, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee.  Strategies for quantifying and controlling free-living nematode populations and consequent damage by Tobacco Rattle Virus to improve potato yield and growth – funded by the Technology Strategy Board.
  • 2005 –2010 Post Doctoral Research fellow/Lab manager
    Environment Plant Interactions, SCRI
    Development of molecular diagnostic assay.  Environmental monitoring using high-throughput molecular approaches. Primarily focusing on analysing water samples for biological quality compared to existing indices. No details can be given for reasons of commercial protection.  Project led to formation of EnPrint.
  • 1999–2003 Post Doctoral Research Fellow
    Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Aberdeen
    Evolution and ecology of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli.
  • 1997-1999 Project leader/Post Doctoral Researcher
    National Diagnostics Centre, University College Galway
    Development of rapid diagnostic aids for human pathogenic fungi.
  • 1996-1997 Research Officer, Kings College London.
  • BSc (Hons) and PhD – Kings College London.



  • Roberts, D.M.; Oliveira, C.M.G.; Neilson, R.; Blok, V.C. (2016) Molecular diagnostics of plant-parasitic nematodes., In: Oliveira, C.M.G., dos Santos, M.A. & e Castro, L.H.S. (eds.). Diagnose de Fitonematoides. Millennium Editora Ltda, Campinas, Brazil, pp281-324.


  • Neilson, R.; Roberts, D.M. (2012) Strategies for quantifying and controlling free living nematode populations and consequent damage by tobacco rattle virus to improve potato yield and quality., Interim Report for 2011 to Potato Council, AHDB and TSB.

Conference papers

  • Neilson, R.; Roberts, D.M.; Loades, K.W.; Lozana, A.; Daniell, T. (2018) Healthy soils for crop production., Crop Protection in Northern Britain 2018: The Dundee Conference, Environmental Management and Crop Production, Apex City Quay Hotel, Dundee, 27-28 February 2018. Conference Proceedings, 17-20.
  • Roberts, D.M.; Rodenhurst, M.; Otter, J.; Dale, M.F.B.; Blok, V.C.; Neilson, R. (2012) Identifying free living nematode populations., Proceedings Crop Protection in Northern Britain 2012, Dundee, 28-29 February 2012.
  • Roberts, D.; Daniell, T.J. (2007) Are molecular tools useful for environmental monitoring?, British Phycological Society, Bristol, 3-5 January 2007.

Conference posters

  • Loades, K.W.; Taylor, A.; Neilson, R.; Preedy, K.; Daniell, T.J.; Griffiths, B.; Roberts, D.M.; Beattie, P.; Anderson, E. (2018) SoilBio – Measurement of soil physical condition using the soil biological community., European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2018, Vienna, Austria, 8-13 April 2018. SSS7.1/HS8.3.9 – Interactions and Feedbacks between Soil Structure and Biogeochemical Processes in Micro-Aggregates and Beyond (co-organized). Geophysical Research Abstracts, Volume 20, EGU2018-19209.
  • Roberts, D.M.; Neilson, R.; Blok, V.C.; Dale, M.F.B. (2012) Identifying free living nematodes., Crop Protection of Northern Britain, Environmental Management and Crop Protection, The Dundee Conference, The West Park Conference Centre, Dundee, 28-29 February 2012. (Poster).
  • Roberts, D.; Daniell, T.J. (2007) EnPrint TM., Connect Investment Conference (CIC). Edinburgh, 30 October 2007 (Poster).