Fiona Highet

Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture


Project Lead: Katherine Hayden
Pests and diseases represent a major emerging threat to biodiversity, in part due to increased global trade, climate change, and wider habitat degradation. The potential impacts include direct threats based on pest/pathogen impacts on focal species, as well as wider secondary effects for other interacting species and communities.
Compared to threats such as climate change and habitat fragmentation, plant health issues are poorly represented in international and national biodiversity strategies such as the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Work is thus required to provide strategic guidance on the inclusion of plant health threats into the next iteration of the biodiversity strategies.

Impact: Direct guidance and input for plant health issues into the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy; best-practice example of plant health integration into national biodiversity planning (model for other countries).
Project Lead: Fiona Highet
The unexpected finding of the presence of Lso and a potential vector species in Scotland raised significant concerns (Sjolund et al. 2017). However, without further information this cannot be put into context. The likelihood is that the disease and possible vector have been present in Scotland for a long time, and yet our crops remain symptomless. Therefore, without the introduction of another vector risk may remain low. In order to confirm this and establish the current risk of transmission to crops, the following information is urgently required: the distribution of potential pyllid vectors including T. anthrisci in regions of Scotland, the presence of Haplotype C Lso within these vectors, a genomic comparison of the Scottish Haplotype C Lso with disease-causing Haplotype C Lso from Finland and Spain, and establishment of T. anthrisci’s vector potential through the development of a breeding colony.

The knowledge required to identify different psyllid species is highly specialised but is essential in order to gain a wider understanding of the disease threat that such insects cause. As few in Scotland have this specialisation (including SASA), it is deemed important to up-skill others by running a training course on psyllid identification for entomologists within Scottish organisations to better enable Scotland to deal with possible Lso threats both now and in the future.

This project will contribute to Scottish Government’s ability to control pests / diseases by increased knowledge on the presence and distribution of Liberibacter solonacearum and its host psyllids in Scotland and the potential of these organisms to cause and spread disease.