Researcher in the Spotlight November – Inger Åhman

PlantLink Researcher in the Spotlight

This month, we again turn the spotlight on Professor Inger Åhman at the Department of Plant Breeding, SLU Alnarp. Professor Åhman was the first to be interviewed in the series of “PlantLink Researcher in the Spotlight”, in February 2015.

-What is currently on top of your research agenda?

 –Since I have just a couple of months of working time left before retirement, I am mainly writing manuscripts to report what I have been doing during recent years.

-Tell us about your latest publication?

-It is a review of plant genes induced by aphids, potentially to make their hosts more suitable to them. Such knowledge can be used for knocking out candidate genes to try to reduce plant susceptibility to aphids. The review  is based on results from more than 60 omics studies and will soon be published in Frontiers in Plant Science.

-What led you into your particular field of research?

My PhD studies concerned insect-plant interactions and when I was employed in a plant breeding company one of my responsibilities was to breed for resistance to insects that are pests of agricultural crops. Since I work from the plant perspective rather than the pest perspective, it has been relatively easy to, in parallel, work with pathogen-plant interactions applied on for instance resistance to leaf blotch diseases in cereals and rust in salix.

-What are the implications of your research for the society?

I have always been working with applied research, mainly doing pre-breeding which means that I have produced improved plant material along with selection methods which commercial breeders can use in their breeding. For example, I have had requests from six European breeding companies for barley germplasm improved for resistance to the bird cherry – oat aphid along with easy-to-use molecular markers for the resistance.

-Finally, let´s say you got unlimited research funds; where would your research be five years from now?

Since I am close to retirement I would like to rephrase the question to “With unlimited research funds, how would I spend the money?” I would give young scientists within my field of research enough resources for a long period of time so that they can perform experiments, read and write instead of hunting for new grants all the time!