Dr Estrella Luna-Diez PhD

Dr Estrella Luna-Diez

School of Biosciences
Lecturer in Plant Pathology

Contact details

S223, School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Originally from Spain, Dr Estrella Luna-Diez is a plant pathologist working in the UK since early 2009. Her work is aimed towards plant protection and biosecurity. Dr Luna-Diez studies the sophisticated immune system of plants in order to exploit their resistance capacity to a maximum.


  • BBSRC Future Leader Fellow (2017-present), University of Sheffield & University of Birmingham
  • P3 Independent Research Fellow, University of Sheffield (2016)
  • Research Associate, University of Sheffield (2013-2015)
  • PhD: Lancaster University / Rothamsted Research (2009-2012)
  • MEng in Agronomy and Crop Science: Polytech University of Valencia (2006-2008)
  • BEng in Agronomy (Horticulture and landscape gardening): University Jaume I of Castellon (2003-2006)


Dr Luna-Díez graduated as Technical Agriculture Engineer from the University Jaume I of Castellon in 2006. She spent a few months travelling before she moved to Valencia, where, in December 2008 she completed a higher engineering degree in Agronomy. In January 2009, she was awarded a Leonardo Da Vinci training fellowship to join the laboratory of Dr. Jurriaan Ton at Rothamsted Research (Harpenden, UK). Seven months into her fellowship, she obtained a studentship to carry on with my doctoral studies based at Rothamsted Research, but as a student of Lancaster University. In November 2012, she completed my PhD in Biological Sciences. After she completed her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the department of Animal and Plant Sciences at The University of Sheffield for 3 years. She then had her son William and came back to work with a fellowship from the Plant, Production and Protection (P3) Centre of the University of Sheffield. During her P3 fellowship, she secured a BBSRC Future Leader Fellowship. The University of Sheffield and P3 hosted the first half of her fellowship. Currently, the University of Birmingham hosts her fellowship where she also hold a Lectureship in Plant Pathology, associated to the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR).

Postgraduate supervision

A list of PhD and Masters opportunities to work in her group will be announced soon. Stay tuned!

For informal inquiries, please send her an email with your motivation and research interests.


Since the start of her degree in Agronomy, Dr Luna-Diez research interests have been driven by the exceptional ability of plants to adapt to hostile environments. From the start of her research career, she has investigated the molecular, genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that mark plant defence responses to diseases. Dr Luna-Diez has extensive experience in plant models and crops, such as Arabidopsis and tomato. Here at the University of Birmingham, she will also implement her work in forest tree pathology in association with BIFoR. At the moment, she is working in the following research projects:


  • Exploiting the immune system to tackle emerging filamentous diseases

This project exploits the immune system of the tomato crop to enhance protection against emerging filamentous diseases. She will do this through priming the defence capacity of plants to prepare to respond faster and stronger against attackers. The ultimate goal of this project is to provide novel strategies that offer “one-step-ahead” solutions against the risks associated with devastating outbreaks of emerging diseases.

  • The effect of priming agents in the protection of tomato harvest against grey mould

Tomato is a major crop world-wide and like other crops, substantial crop yields are lost to diseases. Grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) can cause the loss of over 50% of annual tomato crops. Novel technique development is essential to achieve a competent and eco-friendly tomato industry.  Different priming agents are effective in inducing resistance against B. cinerea in tomato plants. However, little is known about whether these priming agents protects fruit from B. cinerea during tomato post-harvest storage. This project studies whether treatment of tomato plants with priming agents result in a long-lasting induced resistance against grey mould in tomato fruit.


  • Understanding plant defence strategies in the arms race against Fusarium oxysporum

Fusarium oxysporum is a devastating soil-borne pathogen that provokes vascular wilt in over a hundred field and greenhouse-grown crops both in industrialized and developing countries. Current methods of control of F. oxysporum depend on the extensive use of chemical pesticides, which is increasingly regarded as unsustainable. This project exploits the tomato’s immune system to provide a powerful source for future Integrated Disease Management of vascular fusariosis.


Future directions in tree pathology. Dr Luna-Diez lectureship in Plant Pathology at the University of Birmingham is linked to the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research. From this position, she will develop cutting-edge research to provide novel strategies to secure tree resilience to diseases. BIFoR aims to address the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands. For this, BIFoR has a Free Air CO2 Enritchment (FACE) experiment running in the woodlands of Staffordshire. 

Researcher identifier numbers:


Scopus ID: 37098791700

Current website:


Other activities

For the past 5 years, Dr Luna-Díez has been fully involved with the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom. She chaired the Society from July 2017 and June 2018. If you are a Spanish researcher in the UK, do not hesitate and join this fantastic organisation.

Through SRUK, she participates and organises science policy events, professional development workshops and outreach/scientific activities.


  • Samuel W Wilkinson, Victoria Pastor, Sam Paplauskas, Pierre Petriacq and Estrella Luna, 2018. Long-lasting β-aminobutyric acid-induced resistance protects tomato fruit against Botrytis cinereaPlant Pathology. 67: 30-41 
  • Will Buswell, Roland E Schwarzenbacher, Estrella Luna, Matthew Sellwood, Beining Chen, Victor Flors and Jurriaan Ton, 2018. Chemical priming of immunity without costs to plant growth. New Phytologistxxx
  • Brigitte Mauch-Mani, Ivan Baccelli, Estrella Luna and Victor Flors, 2017. Defense priming – An adaptive part of induced resistance. Annual Reviews of Plant Biology. 68:485-512.
  • Toby Bruce, Lesley Smart, Nick Birch, Katrin MacKenzie, Emilio Guerrieri, Pasquale Cascone, Estrella Luna and Jurriaan Ton, 2017. Prospects for plant defence activators and biocontrol in IPM – concepts and lessons learnt so far. Crop Protection. 97: 128-134.
  • Estrella Luna, 2016. Using green vaccination to brighten the agronomic future. Outlooks on Pest Management 27(3): 136-141. doi: DOI: 10.1564/v27_jun_10
  • This article appeared in Volume 27 No 3 of Outlooks on Pest Management, published by Research Information Ltd, and is made available here with the publisher’s permission. Copies of OPM articles are available on the IngentaConnect platform atwww.ingentaconnect.com/content/resinf/opm. Please visitwww.pestoutlook.com for further information.
  • Estrella Luna, Emily Beardon, Julie Scholes, Sabine Ravnskov and Jurriaan Ton, 2016. Optimizing chemically induced resistance in tomato against Botrytis cinerea. Plant Disease 100(4) 704-710.
  • Roland E Schwarzenbacher, Estrella Luna and Jurriaan Ton, 2014. The discovery of the BABA receptor: Scientific implications and application potential. Front. Plant Sci. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00304. 
  • Estrella Luna, Marieke van Hulten, Yuhua Zhang, Oliver Berkowitz, Ana López, Pierre Pétriacq, Matthew ASellwood, Beining Chen, Mike Burrell, Allison van de Meene, Corné M J Pieterse, Victor Flors and Jurriaan Ton, 2014. Plant perception of b-aminobutyric acid is mediated by an aspartyl-tRNA synthetase. Nature Chemical Biology. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.1520
  • Estrella Luna, Ana López, Jaap Kooiman and Jurriaan Ton, 2014. Role of NPR1 and KYP in long-lasting induced resistance by β-aminobutyric acid. Front. Plant Sci. 5:184. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00184 
  • Victoria Pastor, Estrella Luna, Jurriaan Ton, Miguel Cerezo, Pilar García-Agustín and Victor Flors, 2013. Fine tuning of ROS homeostasis regulates primed immune responses in Arabidopsis. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. 26: 1334-1344.
  • Victoria Pastor*, Estrella Luna*, Brigitte Mauch-Mani, Jurriaan Ton and Victor Flors, 2013. Primed plants do not forget. Environ. Exp. Bot. 94: 46-56. (* indicates that these authors contributed equally to the work)
  • Estrella Luna and Jurriaan Ton, 2012. The epigenetic machinery controlling transgenerational SAR. Plant Signalling and Behaviour 7:6, 1-4
  • Estrella Luna, Toby Bruce, Victor Flors, Mike Roberts and Jurriaan Ton, 2012. Next Generation Systemic Acquired resistance. Plant Physiology. 158(2): 844–853.
  • Ana Slaughter, Xavier Daniel, Victor Flors, Estrella Luna, Barbara Hohn and Brigitte Mauch-Mani, 2012. Priming a Plant’s Descendants for Biotic Stress Resistance. Plant Physiology. 158(2):835-43
  • Estrella Luna*, Victoria Pastor*, Jérôme Robert, Victor Flors, Brigitte Mauch-Mani, and Jurriaan Ton, 2011. Callose Deposition: A Multifaceted Plant Defense Response. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. 24, 183-193. (* indicates that these authors contributed equally to the work)
  • Marieke van Hulten, Shakoor Ahmad, Estrella Luna, Ruth Gordon-Weeks, Corne M.J. Pieterse and Jurriaan Ton, 2009. Natural variation in defence responsiveness amongst Arabidopsis accessions. Commun Agric Appl Biol Sci 74, 801-7

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