Marsh Horticultural Science Award

The Marsh Horticultural Science Award, run in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society, recognises the work of and encourages new postgraduate scientists to develop careers in horticultural science.

Before 2011 the Award was the Marsh Award for Horticultural Research which recognised an individual for undertaking important research in the field of horticulture, but it was felt that this was too general and the Award would have more of an impact if it was focused on horticultural science.

“We are really pleased to be involved with this Award, which complements perfectly our own efforts to develop the horticultural scientists of tomorrow,” Roger Williams, Former Head of RHS Science.

“We developed this award in partnership with the RHS because we were concerned that too few bright scientists were choosing a career in horticultural science. Hopefully the award in a small way will help raise the profile of this important discipline and encourage more new scientists to aim for a career in horticultural science.” Brian Marsh OBE, Chairman of the Marsh Christian Trust.

The 2016 winners are Oliver Ellingham and Lauren Edwards

Oliver’s project is entitled “The development of novel DNA regions for the identification of (UK powdery mildews (Ascomysota, Erysiphales)”. He aims to develop an increasingly reliable method for the identification of the 900 powdery mildew species, 150 of which can already be found in British gardens, as currently they are hard to distinguish when simply looked at under a microscope.

Oliver has already been successful in identifying new regions of DNA which have proven to be unique to individual powdery mildew species and will enable future unambiguous identifications. These techniques should prove to be a vital tool for plant quarantine, particularly for greater movement in the plants and plant products via trade within the UK and from overseas.

Oliver writes a blog to keep interested parties up to date with his project and further outreach has included participation in RHS Flower Shows at Chelsea and Hampton Court.

Due to the high standard of nominations, Lauren Edwards was awarded this year’s highly commended prize.

Lauren’s project is entitled “Can we use beneficial microbes to improve sustainable growing media?”. She aims to help reduce peat use in commercial plant production as well as home gardens by improving the quality and consistency of plants grown in non-peat growing media. This is because the unsustainable and destructive nature of peat extraction requires a suitable alternative to be found. While currently, plants grown in non-peat media are often smaller and more varied in size, Lauren hopes to prove that this can be improved by adding beneficial soil fungi.

Lauren has presented the data she has collected so far at the Royal Holloway Postgraduate Symposium and the RHS PhD Symposium, as well as to the Vitacress Herb Company. She has also communicated her ideas to a non-peer audience at Science Open Days at Royal Holloway for prospective students and their parents to see what research goes on in the department.


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