Sector lead for agriculture for the Plant Health Centre is Fiona Burnett, Professor of Applied Plant Pathology and Head of the Crop and Soil Systems Research Group at SRUC. Fiona is a key translational crop scientist in the UK and a high profile independent influencer of crop protection practices. Analysis of crop protection decision-making problems are at the centre of her research interests and she has particular interests in Integrated Pest Management and pesticide stewardship. Fungicide resistance and efficacy are core activities for her research team. She chairs the Fungicide Resistance Action Group–UK, a group made up of independent researchers, agrochemical and industry representative, regulators and agronomists where emerging resistance issues are discussed and advice and recommendations issued. The steering groups and committees she contributes to are extensive and include the UK Plant Health Forum (Defra), the AHDB Oilseeds RL Committee and the British Crop Protection Council’s Diseases Working Group. She chairs the Association for Crop Protection in Northern Britain and she is a Director of Scottish Quality Farm Assured Cereals Ltd, Director of the Genomia Fund and is Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee for Scottish Quality Crops Ltd.
Recently, following a working group on PCN, a report entitled ‘Potato cyst nematode (PCN) and the future of potato production in Scotland’ was submitted to Scottish Government highlighting the PCN problem in detail and outlining practical recommendations for its reduction.
Scottish Government agreed to fund in full the recommendations in the report and this project will aim to:
• develop resistance markers to PCN to inform breeding programs,
• introduce diploid breeding strategies to generate PCN resistant varieties relevant to the Scottish fresh potato market,
• improve the understanding of the mechanisms of PCN tolerance in potatoes,
• methods of groundkeeper control and management,
• novel and improved IPM tools for PCN management,
• create a decision support tool for PCN control in Scotland, building upon the AHDB’s PCN calculator
Impact: Improved understanding of costs and benefits of pesticide use across Scottish sectors and an impact analysis for the most likely withdrawal scenarios such that key gaps can be identified and their impact quantified in order to inform pesticide policy.
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a holistic approach to managing harmful organisms which maximizes profitability and minimises negative impacts on the environment. IPM aims to reduce reliance on pesticides and promoting IPM is identified as a key action in support of a National Action Plan. To promote IPM practices and improve on-farm uptake, it is essential to understand current uptake levels and better understand what motivates farmers to further adopt IPM. A new integrated pest management planning tool for Scottish growers has been launched, replacing a previous IPM plan. The new plan uses stakeholder derived metrics to value how important different interventions, such as rotations or varieties, are in achieving sustainable reductions in invertebrate pest, weed and disease risk.
Following a Ministerial round table meeting on PCN in June 2020, a working group of over 50 potato industry, government and academic partners was set up (from both Scotland and the wider UK) to identify a clear strategy for dealing with the PCN crisis. Following over 320 person hours of scheduled meetings, plus many days of personal discussions, recommendations for how to combat the growing threat of PCN to the Scottish potato industry have been proposed.
Chemical forms of plant protection are widely used in Scottish agricultural, horticultural and forestry production plus for amenity and natural environment management purposes. The availability and use of active substances in pesticides are closely regulated and increasing concern over human health and environmental impacts has led to a greater likelihood that some existing approvals will be withdrawn and/or that approvals for new products will not be granted. Potential impacts from withdrawal of these pesticides are of policy interest and this summary report builds on the data and results from project PHC2018/15 (Potential impacts arising from pesticide withdrawals to Scotland’s plant health) and uses case studies to understand the likely magnitude and distribution of potential impacts and how they may be mitigated.
The use of pesticides to manage plant pests and diseases is a key management intervention across plant health sectors, particularly in agriculture, horticulture and commercial forestry production. Pesticide withdrawals through legislation, coupled with resistance development and their impact on plant health, have emerged as key concerns for Scottish plant health stakeholders. This project quantifies the impacts on Scottish plant health that will arise from pesticide withdrawal scenarios and sets this in the context and time frame of alternative management tools.
This report sets out estimates for the crop loss and value to Scottish crop production should the molluscicide metaldehyde be withdrawn. This would leave ferric phosphate as the only available chemical control option. Short term losses are negligible as the substitution of ferric phosphate carries no additional treatment costs and has equivalent efficacy. Longer term there is some risk should resistance arise to this single site mode of action active, and ferric phosphate (although of lower mammalian toxicity to metaldehyde) has some environmental impacts of its own.