Dr Tom Thirkell

Research interests

My research interests concern the impact of the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis on plant nutrient uptake, metabolism and growth, especially in crop plants. I have a special interest in sustainable crop production and the sustainable intensification of agriculture. As a BBSRC postdoctoral fellow in the Field lab, I am investigating drivers of functional diversity in the symbiosis, i.e. the extent to which crop plants benefit from being mycorrhizal. Specifically, my project tests how plant genotype dictates growth response to colonisation and the degree of nutritional benefit from the fungi. My project also investigates the impact of atmospheric CO2 concentration on the symbiosis, examining the role of AM fungi in plant nutrition under future projected climate conditions.

I use a combination of physiological, molecular and metabolomic techniques to investigate nutrient trade between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and crop plant symbionts.

2012-2016: PhD. “The influence of nitrogen source on the nutrition of arbuscular mycorrhizal plants”, University of York.

2011-2012: M.Sc. Bioscience (Plant Science & Plant Biotechnology) – Distinction
Centre for Plant Sciences, University of Leeds

2007-2011: MBiolSci, Biology

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield


Thirkell, T.J., Cameron, D.D., Hodge, A. ‘Resolving the nitrogen paradox of arbuscular mycorrhizas: fertilisation with organic matter brings considerable benefits for plant nutrition and growth.’ Plant, Cell and Environment. 39(8), 1683-1690.

Thirkell, T.J., Charters, M.D., Elliott, A.J., Sait, S.M., Field, K.J. ‘Are mycorrhizal fungi our sustainable saviours? Considerations for achieving food security. Journal of Ecology. 105(4), 921-929.