Projects

Our In-Progress and Completed Projects

The Plant Health Centre funds projects to understand current and future threats, risks, and management strategies in maintaining plant health across sectors in Scotland.

The projects listed below are 'in progress' or 'completed'.  

Reports from completed projects can be searched here

Further information on the remit of our projects

The Plant Health Centre has an annual budget for commissioning projects that enhance Scotland’s resilience in the face of threats to arable crops, trees, horticulture and wild plants. Our projects aim to fill knowledge gaps associated with new or emerging plant health threats to Scotland’s plant assets (either from the perspective of the pest/pathogen, or of the host plant/habitat), or with processes and schemes that address plant health risks, and with trade pathways that carry risks. The following outlines some of the areas in which we have a remit to commission projects, and others that we do not.

We commission projects on:

  • Pests and pathogens that are of significance to Scotland’s plants and have not yet, or have only recently, entered the country. This includes collating information, filling knowledge gaps on pest/pathogen biology, modelling potential for spread, testing or creating tools for detection.
  • Pests and diseases already endemic in Scotland whose impact is likely to worsen in the future (for example because of changing climate, withdrawal of pesticides, changes in land management etc).
  • Knowledge gaps around health risks to plant assets (i.e., iconic Scottish plant species or habitat types).
  • Assessing and addressing human-mediated pest and disease risks to Scotland’s plant assets, such as plant biosecurity, plant trade, large planting schemes, recreation, and other plant-associated activities.
  • Understanding and evaluating how different policies impact on plant health in Scotland, with the potential for policy enhancement and development.

We do not commission projects on:

  • Endemic plant pests and diseases that do not present a growing threat
  • Longer term surveillance programmes
  • Areas of plant health that are already addressed in the Strategic Research Programme (although projects may be complimentary to SRP research), or through levy organisations
  • Abiotic threats to Scotland’s plants, unless as a component of exploring the threat of pests and diseases
  • Invasive plant species
There are 38 projects listed below.
Status
Project Lead: Sarah Wynn
Insecticides are commonly used in Scottish agricultural, horticultural, forestry production, and for amenity and natural environment management purposes. Over the last 10 years, approximately 50% of UK insecticide active substances have been withdrawn due to increasing concern over human health, Read more ...
Project Lead: Matt Elliot
The Plant Health Centre was commissioned by the Scottish Government to review evidence relating to the potential of new gene editing technologies to address plant health issues in Scotland, with potential benefits, barriers to deployment and dis-benefits noted, Read more ...
Project Lead: Mariella Marzano
Three projects (PHC2019/04/05/06) were conducted in 2020/21 that investigated large-scale biosecurity risks to Scotland from several supply-chains and planting approaches. This project was commissioned, within the original scope of the aforementioned projects, to conduct further research with a, Read more ...
Project Lead: Steven Hendry
Originally raised as a plant health issue of potential concern, the health of Alder trees in Scotland was initially investigated in project PHC2019/09: Health status of Alder in Scotland. This preliminary study found that there could be a legitimate concern over Alder that may have complex causes (, Read more ...
Project Lead: Chris Pollard
Whilst it is generally agreed that ‘prevention is better than cure’ in plant health, translating such logic into precautionary actions does not always happen. Precautions can be encouraged in a variety of ways – through development of implementable actions, risk assessments, encouragement of best, Read more ...
| In Progress
Project Lead: Matt Elliot
Plant health risks associated with poor composting practice or imported carrier products as peat alternatives are not well understood. Best practice guidance to minimise the plant health risks to Scotland from these activities is needed.

This work will examine and define the extent, Read more ...
Project Lead: Matt Elliot
Outwith the plant-based trade sectors there are aspects of biosecurity practice for which advice remains unclear or there are no commonly agreed best practices. Two broad situations needing further evidence are 1) sites which are visited by many people, and 2) moving machinery and equipment, Read more ...
Project Lead: Rehema White
We have commissioned a project to review and further develop the PHC’s Communications Strategy to help develop further networks and collaborations, while building on existing relationships to improve knowledge flows in relation to plant health across Scotland. This project will draw on and align, Read more ...
Forestry, Environment | Complete
Project Lead: Steven Hendry
Concerns over the condition of alder in the north of Scotland were raised in 2019 and PHC compiled a project call to determine the cause, scale and consequences of the potential progressive Alder decline. This project was put on hold over winter 2019 and was due to commence at the start of May, Read more ...
Environment | In Progress
Project Lead: Ruth Mitchell
The Natural Environment sector underpins Scotland’s landscapes, biodiversity, rural industries and recreational activities, but the growing number of plant pest and diseases pose a significant threat to this sector and the rural economy. This Fellowship aims to further our understanding of the, Read more ...
Horticulture, Agriculture | In Progress
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, Read more ...
Project Lead: Ashleigh Holmes
To maximise the impact of the work of the Centre, we need to be effective at the production, exchange and implementation of plant health knowledge across the four plant sectors, forestry, horticulture, environment and agriculture. To this end we have had a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy developed, Read more ...
Forestry, Environment | In Progress
Project Lead: Katrina Dainton
Birch is an important component of Scotland’s broadleaved woodlands and as individual trees in Scottish landscapes – with high aesthetic and biodiversity associated values as well as a range of uses for the wood. Birch, because of pioneering qualities and rapid early growth, is often favoured by, Read more ...
Project Lead: Elliot Meador
Pesticide use remains an important tool in managing pest, weed and disease risks to crops and maintaining profitable production. There are several drivers, including pesticide withdrawals and the biodiversity and climate crises, for reducing reliance on pesticides and promoting the uptake of more, Read more ...
Project Lead: Daniel Chapman
Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial plant pathogen that can cause disease in a broad range of hosts. There are currently major Xylella outbreaks in Southern France, including Corsica, Italy, mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands. Although Xylella has so far not been detected in Scotland (or UK), an, Read more ...
Agriculture | In Progress
Project Lead: Jim Wilson
Poor control of groundkeepers (unharvested potatoes that regrow during subsequent crops) enables PCN populations, along with other pests and pathogens, to increase between potato rotations. This greatly undermines the usefulness of rotations in reducing PCN in the soil. A reduction in groundkeeper, Read more ...
Project Lead: Fiona Burnett
The use of pesticides to control plant pests and diseases is a key management intervention across plant health sectors, particularly in agriculture, horticulture, and commercial forestry. Pesticide withdrawals through legislation, coupled with increased insensitivity, have emerged as key concerns, Read more ...
Project Lead: Ian Toth
The potato industry in Scotland employs over 2000 people and is worth £250 million to the economy. However, the industry is under serious threat from Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN). PCN comprises two closely related species, Globodera rostochiensis and Globodera pallida, both of which are present in, Read more ...
Project Lead: Mariella Marzano
The UK and Scotland have ambitious tree planting targets, with a major driver being carbon sequestration. Scotland’s Forest Strategy outlines a target of 15,000 ha per year. In addition to carbon management, other major drivers for tree planting are commercial forestry, habitat restoration and the, Read more ...
Project Lead: Mariella Marzano
Large scale infra-structure projects such as transport networks and major housing projects typically include extensive landscaping and planting programmes. These operate at a large scale, often require instant visual impacts (semi-mature shrubs and trees) and face significant cost pressures. The, Read more ...
Project Lead: Mariella Marzano
Retail horticulture is a large-scale industry in the UK, with ornamental horticulture and landscaping worth an estimated £24.2 billion national GDP in 2017. The industry is characterised by a large volume of individual transactions and the transport of a diverse range of plant materials (with, Read more ...
Project Lead: Carolyn Riddell
The oomycete Phytophthora ramorum has caused substantial losses of Scottish forests in recent years due to widespread mortality of European larch trees (Larix decidua). Since 2009, legislation and policies have been implemented to control P. ramorum outbreaks on larch including the use of a 250 m, Read more ...
Project Lead: Katy Hayden
A previous PHC project (PHC2018/11) created an online Resource Bank for plant health threats to the Natural Environment sector in Scotland, which includes an assembly of, or signposting to, available existing resources. The PHC recognised that for the remaining three sectors (Forestry, Agriculture, Read more ...
Forestry, Environment | Complete
Project Lead: Glenn Marion
Dendroctonus Micans (D. micans) is a significant beetle pest of commercially important spruce species. The beetle is spreading north from England and is now present is Scotland. The spread of the beetle threatens the D. micans Pest Free Area (PFA) in west Scotland. This designation allows the, Read more ...
Project Lead: April Armstrong
The oomycete Phytophthora ramorum has caused substantial losses of Scottish forests in recent years due to widespread mortality of European larch trees (Larix decidua). Infected trees are subject to statutory felling notices in an effort to reduce sporulation potential. Nevertheless, there are, Read more ...
Project Lead: Alison Dolan
The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) Halyomorpha halys is an invasive species of the shield bug family. It has been intercepted in the UK on several occasions, likely posing a ‘when’ not ‘if’ risk to crops. The BMSB attacks a wide range of hosts including raspberry and sweet cherry, two main soft, Read more ...
Agriculture | Complete
Project Lead: Vivian Blok
Potato cyst nematode (PCN) remains an important threat to potato production in the UK as elsewhere and is a particular concern to the Scottish seed industry, since land found to be infested with the pest cannot be used to grow seed. However, ware crops can still be grown which may exacerbate issues, Read more ...
Project Lead: Daniel Chapman
Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial plant pathogen that can cause disease in a broad range of hosts. Disease symptoms include leaf scorch, wilting of foliage, dieback and plant death. Xylella fastidiosa was first detected in Europe in 2013 in Puglia in Italy and was identified as subspecies pauca, Read more ...
Project Lead: Andy Evans
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, Read more ...
Project Lead: Adam Kleczkowski
The movement of plant pests and pathogens into Scotland in likely to increase in the coming years, e.g. due to changes in trade, potentially increasing from outside Europe following Brexit, while their spread and severity could be affected by climate change (both positively and negatively). It is, Read more ...
Forestry, Environment | In Progress
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, Read more ...
Forestry, Environment | Complete
Project Lead: Katherine Hayden
Plant health issues for the natural environment are poorly characterised compared to other sectors. This is compounded by the lack of established conferences / knowledge exchange events targeted at this sector. A key issue identified by stakeholders was lack of accessible information /, Read more ...
Early scoping of plant health priorities with key Scottish stakeholders and discussions at the PHC launch event indicate a complex landscape of plant health information sources, confusion amongst stakeholders and a perception of information overload. To inform future KE methods and priorities, a, Read more ...
Project Lead: Sebastian Raubach
Plant health is a major issue worldwide with many different pests and diseases threatening different plant-based sectors, e.g. forestry, agriculture, environment and horticulture. Keeping up to date with such threats has always been a major task in terms of pest and disease identification,, Read more ...
Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial plant pathogen that can cause disease in a broad range of hosts. Disease symptoms include leaf scorch, wilting of foliage, dieback and plant death. Xylella fastidiosa was first detected in Europe in 2013 in Puglia in Italy and was identified as subspecies pauca, Read more ...
Project Lead: Kirsty Park
Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial plant pathogen that can cause disease in a broad range of hosts, including Polygala myrtifolia, Olea europaea, Rosmarinus Officinalis, Lavandula sp., Prunus sp. and Nerium oleander. Disease symptoms include leaf scorch, wilting of foliage, dieback and plant death., Read more ...
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, Read more ...
Project Lead: Fiona Burnett
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, Read more ...