Dr Rob Williams

This page was conceived and written by Dr Rob Williams. Rob has had a life-long involvement in agriculture and agricultural research. He 

  • was raised on a hill farm in Wales;
  • studied agriculture and agricultural botany as an Evan Morgan Scholar at UCW Aberystwyth, and was awarded a First Class Honours degree in Agricultural Botany there in 1966;
  • was awarded a PhD at Reading University Agricultural Botany Department for research on barley leaf scald in 1969;
  • worked as a research scientist and research leader at two CGIAR International Research Institutes (IITA and ICRISAT) for more than 13 years;
  • was a research scientist and research leader for a multinational Agricultural company (CIBA GEIGY) based in Switzerland for 10 years;
  • was Deputy Director General at CAB International for 7.5 years, responsible for the Bioscience Division which has research and training teams based in UK, Switzerland, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Trinidad, and active projects in several other countries;
  • has been a small-holder in west Wales for 15 years, growing vegetables and fruit and developing a small flock of pedigree Jacob sheep.

Crops that Rob has worked on to a significant degree are:

  • barley (his PhD research was on physiologic races of barley leaf scald in the UK);
  • cowpea (screened the world germplasm collection for resistance to the main diseases of the crop in its centre of origin in West Africa);
  • cassava (identified cassava bacterial blight in West and Central Africa in the early 1970s and was involved in developing programmes for the control of this disease);
  • sorghum and pearl millet (developed screening techniques for resistance to the major fungal diseases of these two crops in the semi-arid tropical regions of Africa and India,; worked in a team with plant breeders to develop varieties and hybrids resistant to downy mildew in pearl millet which were adopted widely in India);
  • rice (involved in development of new fungicides for the control of rice blast and sheath blight).

Regions/Countries where Rob has actively worked are:

  • West Africa: Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Niger, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Mali, Senegal;
  • Asia: India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan;
  • Europe: Switzerland, UK.
  • North America: USA

During his 10 years at CIBA GEIGY, as Head of Biological Research for the Fungicide Division and then Head of R&D for the Herbicide Division, he regularly visited agricultural research trials in many countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

He was a visiting Professor at Cornell University, NY, USA for 10 months based in the Plant Pathology Department, where he wrote a major review of the downy mildew diseases of tropical cereals and lectured to students at Cornell and Penn. State Universities.

He has published his research findings and reviews in several international peer-reviewed journals, including Phytopathology, Plant Disease, Advances in Plant Pathology and Annual Review of Phytopathology. In 1993 he was elected a Fellow of the UK Institute of Biology, and in 1994 was a recipient of the Doreen Margaret Mashler Significant Scientific Achievement Award for contribution to pearl millet improvement with special attention to downy mildew resistance.

Rob is currently running his farm in Wales and contributing content to PlantVillage.