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James Townsend

Senior Associate
James Townsend website profile picture

James brings expertise in Plant Pathology to Hawkins. He has had over 20 years’ experience in the field, and for ten of those he has managed diagnostic plant clinics providing diagnoses for a range of UK and overseas crop problems for customers. He is experienced in investigating the causes of plant diseases, crop failures and spoilage of fresh produce and enhances Hawkins’ capabilities in the areas of Agriculture & Forestry, Cargo Spoilage, Contamination & Pollution, Marine & Shipping.

James studied Applied Biology at Brunel University and his industrial placement project on the genetic resistance to the disease apple scab at HRI-East Malling, now NIAB-EMR, inspired him to pursue a career in plant pathology.

James spent 12 years as a Senior Research Assistant in the Plant Pathology Department at Rothamsted Research, the oldest agricultural research institute in the world. He worked on projects to breed genetic resistance to diseases in oilseed crops and published research into the effects of climate change on plant diseases in the UK.

James was a Project Manager in Plant Pathology for six years at Stockbridge Technology Centre where he managed a portfolio of field and glasshouse research projects and the Plant Clinic, gaining extensive experience in plant disease diagnostic techniques.

James joined Hawkins after four years at Berry Gardens, the UK’s leading berry and stone fruit production and marketing group, where he was the Applied Plant Pathologist for the grower cooperative. He set up the plant disease diagnostic laboratory, used his expertise to diagnose crop problems and fruit rots and advise growers on disease management strategies.

He is a Senior Associate based in our Reigate Office and has investigated cases of fallen trees, pesticide damage, crop germination failure, crop storage problems, mould contamination, wildfires and plant disease outbreaks in domestic and commercial settings.


BSc Biological Sciences – Brunel University
Member of the Royal Society of Biology
Member of the British Society of Plant Pathology
Member of the American Phytopathological Society
Member of the International Society of Plant Pathology

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This article explores cereal crop germination failure, highlighting pests and diseases' roles. It stresses financial repercussions on farmers, encompassing seed, field prep, and related costs due to crop failure. Pests (slugs, frit fly, leatherjackets, wheat bulb fly, wireworm) and diseases (Septoria & Fusarium seedling blights) contribute to germination issues. It underscores considering various factors and recommends certified seed sources to alleviate risks.
James Townsend explores the factors influencing germination failure in cereal crops. This part 2 highlights how soil type, previous crops, sowing depth, density, timing, temperature, and post-sowing weather conditions all play crucial roles in crop establishment. Part 1 discussed the importance of seed quality and part 3 focuses on pests and diseases.

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