Jurriaan Ton is Professor of Plant Environment Signalling at the University of Sheffield. He holds an MSc (1996) and a PhD (2001) in Biology from Utrecht University, The Netherlands. After two postdoctoral positions at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, he moved back to Utrecht University where he was awarded a NWO-VENI fellowship for Innovative Science to start his own research group. Four years later (2008), he moved to Rothamsted Research as a principal investigator (PI) on a BBSRC Institute Career Path Fellowship. In 2011, Jurriaan took up a Lectureship at the University of Sheffield, where he was awarded an ERC consolidator grant in 2012. Jurriaan co-founded the P3 Centre for translational plant and soil biology at the University of Sheffield and was promoted to Professor in 2015. From 2014 to 2016, Jurriaan was recognised as a highly cited researcher and member of ‘the World’s most influential scientific minds’ by Thomson Reuters. He also holds a Research Leadership Award from the Leverhulme Trust (2013) and receives additional PI funding from BBSRC and the EU.
The Ton lab investigates how plants employ their immune system to adapt to environmental stress. When plants are attacked by pathogens or herbivores, they protect themselves by activating defences. These inducible defences are often costly, due to allocation of limited resources or auto-toxicity toxicity of the defence itself. Plants can also acquire a less costly form of disease resistance after perception of environmental alarm signals that sensitise the plant’s immune system. This “immune priming” mediates a faster and/or stronger defence reaction when the plant is attacked at a later stage. The lab investigates the (epi)genetic basis of priming and the root exudation chemistry that recruits priming-inducing soil microbes. We collaborate with industrial stakeholders to translate this knowledge from model systems into novel crop protection methods for cereals and vegetables.