Personal profile

Research overview

Plant viruses cause major disease epidemics in important food crops and are a major threat to food security in many countries particularly in the developing world.  The predicted warming of the climate caused by environmental change is expected to increase the abundance and geographic range of many insects that spread viruses which in turn may increase the occurrence of virus diseases. Potato is the third largest food crop in the world.  Scotland produces high quality seed tubers and approx. 70,000 tonnes are exported annually to the EU and over 30 other countries worldwide.  Pests and diseases cause major economic losses by decreased tuber yield and quality and rejection of exports; our work contributes to supporting the seed potato industry.

Viruses are parasites that must take over the host cell’s functions to replicate and produce more virus particles.  My research focuses on potato viruses and the role and function of virus coded proteins in disease processes, investigating mechanisms of host susceptibility and resistance. A particular focus is the durability of host resistance under heat stress and the effect of developmental stage on infection processes.  This work aims to identify essential host molecules needed for replication and spread and a better understanding of host defence mechanisms. The practical outputs of this work will be to inform more effective methods of disease control.    We are working with collaborators in Kenya and Malawi to evaluate mutliple stress tolerant potato genotypes to expand potato production to new lower altitude areas, contributing to the respective Governments strategy to increase the supply of nutritious food and boost farmers incomes. 

Other  collaborations on virus research include with Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hanghzhou, Zhejiang, and North West A&F University, Yangling, P.R. China


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Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Education/Academic qualification

Bachelor of Science, University of Dundee

Doctor of Philosophy

Doctor of Science

External positions

Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

2020 → …

Member of International Science for Development Council, CGIAR

2019 → …

Non executive Director Dundee Science Centre

2018 → …

Director of Science, The James Hutton Institute

2017 → …


  • S Agriculture (General)
  • plant science
  • plant virology
  • plant pathology,
  • abiotic stress
  • potato


Dive into the research topics where Lesley Torrance is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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