Peter Skelsey

The James Hutton Institute


Project Lead: Peter Skelsey
Scottish seed potatoes are a premium global product, and the industry underpins UK potato production that is worth an estimated £4-5bn across all upstream and downstream sectors. The sustainability of this industry is under threat, however, due to increasing levels of potato virus Y and potato leaf roll virus.

These viral diseases are transmitted by aphids, and they cause growth disorders, leaf symptoms, and yield losses. The recent increase in the occurrence of these diseases is likely due to multiple factors, such as climate change, the loss of important aphicides, and a general lack of coordinated management strategies, including accurate predictive models to support decision-making. Current methods used to forecast these diseases at a national scale do not offer sufficient resolution to tackle localised virus health issues.

This project will employ state-of-the-art machine learning techniques to develop improved models for forecasting these diseases and contribute to a better understanding of virus epidemiology, which will support management strategies to reduce disease impacts.
Project Lead: Peter Skelsey
Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) is a threat to the Scottish seed potato and bulb industries: SASA estimates that over 13% of the area regularly planted with potatoes in Scotland is now infested with PCN, with an estimated increase in spread of 5% per year. 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. However, in order to maximise and target resources for such a reduction, a better understand is needed of i) the main areas of infestation in Scotland and how this is changing over time, ii) what key factors are responsible for that spread (be it geographic, climatic, agronomic etc) and iii) which management options would allow us to make the biggest impact on reducing spread.

Impact: The outcomes of this project to provide guidance to both policy and industry on the most effective ways to reduce spread of PCN.


Agriculture | Final Report and Policy Document

Modelling the spread of PCN in Scotland

Authors: Peter Skelsey
March 2023

Potato cyst nematodes (PCN) cost Scottish agriculture over £25 million/year and threatens food security in the developed and developing world. Improved understanding of PCN epidemiology is a priority for the Scottish potato industry, with spatial and temporal modelling identified by the recent PHC PCN working group as essential components.