With plentiful rain and long summer day lengths, Scotland producing some of the highest yielding and best quality crops in the world. But conditions that promote good crop growth are often good for pests and pathogens too and in Scotland 15-20% of our crops are lost to pests and diseases annually.
These losses to pests and diseases amount to almost a million lost tonnes per year with a value close to £200 million. Dealing with the endemic disease burden inevitably means higher prices in supermarkets, hard times for growers and a knock to the economy but, in addition to this current burden many more pests and pathogens are arriving or threatening our borders. Priority concerns for the sector are sustainable methods of reducing and managing pest and disease risks that lessen reliance on pesticides. Current acute issues which have been highlighted by stakeholders are pesticide resistance developments in some of our endemic pests and diseases, and also concerns over product withdrawals through the regulatory processes. Concerns over resistance development in endemic diseases are a major plant health concern in many crops in the agriculture sector. Potato blight and ramularia in barley being two current example where new issues emerged in 2017.
This project was selected for funding from the Project Call: “Enhancing preparedness against pests and diseases: plugging evidence gaps for Scotland”.
From this project there will be an improved understanding of potential risks from plant pathogens under future climate scenarios to inform future priorities for pathogen detection and surveillance efforts. The biophysical modelling will be added to with qualitative data from existing Scottish Government funded stakeholder consultation research.
The project will also identify knowledge gaps for further research, such as in biology, host distributions, and other biophysical factors influencing pathogen spread as required by the model, as well as a shared understanding with stakeholders of priority concerns regarding future plant health risks.
Research on biocontrol agents is required to understand a) what relevant previous work has taken place, b) the potential benefits for agricultural, horticultural and forestry applications in Scotland, and c) is the current risk assessment framework and regulatory system fit for purpose?
This project will improve our understanding of the potential of biocontrol agents in Scottish production systems and gardens; synthesising findings from workshops with stakeholders and literature review.
This project will look to improve the flow of IPM knowledge and its uptake to increase the resilience of Scotland’s crops to pests and diseases, whilst reducing reliance on pesticides.
The drivers and barriers to further adoption of IPM practices for different decision makers and for different farm types will be identified, improving the ability to tailor IPM research and knowledge transfer and exchange activities to consider, if not overcome, those barriers and improve uptake.
This project will deliver an expert review of available literature to identify the insecticides of concern to Scotland and their association with current practices. This targeted review will identify available alternatives and their efficacy, and any interdependencies and evidence gaps will be identified. A key outcome of this call will be case studies of the alternative methods adopted by stakeholders to mitigate the impact of insecticide withdrawal, combined with desk-based and expert opinion and analysis on their efficacy, practicality and cost.
PHC2021/08 will implement an Action Research approach, delivered through workshops co-designed with network organisations, to better understand current plant biosecurity risks in several sectors, to identify their plant health knowledge needs, and to begin to embed biosecurity training within existing organisations, programmes and processes.
The outcomes of the project will be:
• An enhanced understanding of the knowledge and training needs of different sectors and the identification of biosecurity actions that will fill some of the gaps identified by PHC2019/04/05/06
• The identification of further training needs and potential approaches to address the problems identified
• A legacy of close working relationships between the PHC and several network organisations, key to future plant biosecurity research or training delivery activities
Drawing upon and summarise existing literature, in addition to engagement with experts and practitioners with knowledge of existing sectoral practices in Scotland, UK and internationally, as well as gap analysis, the project will generate a better understanding of the rationale for taking precautions and an improved evidence base with which to justify taking action, answering four main questions:
• What are the current barriers to adopting precautionary measures?
• How can barriers be reduced?
• What are the limitations of the current risk assessment process?, and
• What are the priority areas for action and further research?
• How can important plant species in botanic collections and historic gardens be protected from inadvertent disease introduction on the footwear, etc. of visitors?
• What is the risk of further inadvertent spread from gardens into the natural environment?
• How can gardens, nurseries, farms and the natural environment be protected from pest and disease spread through the movement of large machinery (e.g., tree harvesting machines)?
Through a desk based study that incudes literature review, contact with plant health authorities, semi-structured interviews with landowners and expert practitioners from other sectors, the project will; determine what official biosecurity advice already exists and procedures are in place in Scotland; explore other sectors which provide additional novel approaches to biosecurity; and carry out a thorough assessment of what procedures are in place, or being considered and developed, in different countries/regions to address these specific biosecurity risks.
1. What is the overall goal and vision for PHC and how do we articulate this for different groups and sectors?
2. What do we want to communicate, when and to whom?
3. How do we want to communicate to different audiences and for these different purposes?
4. How do we optimise budget and human resource in communicating about plant health?
Impact: The outcome of this project will be a Communication Strategy outlining the goal of communication, roles and responsibilities and a process, including an annual cycle of reflection to permit update or modification on a regular basis and linking to the communication matrix.
Impact: The outcomes of this project to provide guidance to both policy and industry on the most effective ways to reduce spread of PCN.
A targeted analysis of the impact of insecticide withdrawals in Scotland, in the context of alternative control options
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 and environmental impacts. Some of these losses will be mitigated by using alternatives but their practicality and cost under Scottish conditions is unknown. This project analysed current crop production patterns and insecticide use in combination with how likely different insecticides are to be withdrawn and provided stakeholder views on the impacts of any such losses on their industry, including other control methods that may be adopted.
The Plant Health Centre works with Scottish Government, public bodies and stakeholders to provide scientific evidence to help them make important decisions about pests and pathogens that threaten Scotland the most. Over the past 12 months we have delivered a consistent programme of stakeholder engagement and project commissioning, which are detailed in our annual report.
This research investigated plant biosecurity risks from site visitors, tools & equipment, and large machinery. In addition to reviewing published guidance, UK businesses and organisations were engaged via questionnaires and interviews to explore how these aspects of biosecurity are understood and what procedures may be in place to address them.
Identifying the plant health risks associated with plant waste disposal and peat-free growing media and developing best practice guidance for waste disposal and composting across sectors
This research focussed on two areas of biosecurity that provide significant risk to plant businesses and the wider environment in Scotland, i) plant waste management, and ii) the constituents of reduced-peat and peat-free growing media.
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.
This project was commissioned to implement a selection of the recommendations made in the PHC stakeholder engagement strategy and communication plan. The team developed strategies to manage time and resources of the Plant Health Centre more efficiently regarding communication of outputs, general information on activities, aims and current issues related to plant health.
Perceptions of pest risk and differences in IPM uptake by arable farmers and agronomists in Scotland
Pesticide use remains an important tool in managing pest, weed and disease risks to crops and maintaining profitable production. There are several drivers for reducing reliance on pesticides and promoting the uptake of more sustainable practices through integrated pest management (IPM). By identifying IPM information networks it may be possible to improve the flow of information to farmers by targeting their preferred information sources. Better informed farmers and agronomists can make better IPM decisions. Therefore, this project undertook a telephone survey to collect information on currently perceived invertebrate pest and disease threats in Scotland, the level of IPM uptake, and the information sources they relied upon.
Improving knowledge of Xylella fastidiosa vector ecology: modelling vector occurrence and abundance in the wider landscape in Scotland
If introduced to the UK, the insect-vectored, bacterial plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa could be a serious threat to trees and other plants. There is a lack of knowledge about the ecology and distributions of Xylella vectors in Scotland and the potential effects of this on any outbreak of the disease, which this project aimed to address.
This report is the output of a call-down project that assesses the type of plant health problems in Scotland that GE could address, with potential benefits, barriers to deployment and dis-benefits noted.
PHC commissioned an assessment of large-scale biosecurity risks with a focus on three areas of concern:
- non-specialist and online horticulture sales;
- landscaping and infrastructure;
- planting for environmental benefits.
An additional area was the potential for modelling to support decision making across these areas of concern. This policy report summaries each report and highlights the key findings and suggested actions.
Assessment of large-scale plant biosecurity risks to Scotland from non-specialist and online horticultural sales
This project focused on an initial exploration of tree and plant biosecurity risks to Scotland arising from large-scale movement of plants via non-specialist (those for which plants are not their primary product type, e.g., supermarkets, DIY and lifestyle stores) and online plant retailers. By better understanding the characteristics of these retailer types, the plant health behaviours they undertake, and the challenges they face, potential avenues were offered for greater engagement and collaboration on biosecurity with this important, but understudied and hard to reach sector.
Assessment of plant biosecurity risks to Scotland from large scale plantings for landscaping and infra-structure projects
Planting for large-scale landscaping and infrastructure can typically involve tens of thousands of individual plants, potentially threatening plant health in Scotland due to the biosecurity risks of imports and widespread planting of infested or diseased plants. This project aimed to understand the extent and means to mitigate against such plant biosecurity risks with a focus on mapping the pathways from plant specification through to planting and establishment and highlight different biosecurity awareness for actors, in decision-making and procurement processes.
Assessment of plant biosecurity risks to Scotland from large scale tree plantings for environmental benefits
This report features five case studies from across Scotland and examines risks associated with large scale tree planting schemes, levels of awareness around pests and diseases, and how the decisions and actions of those involved can serve to reduce or exacerbate pest and disease related threats and long-term tree health. Each case study was unique in respect to their combination of location, site conditions, ownership, management objectives, species choice, supply chains and management activities. By highlighting best practice and lessons learned, it was hoped to ensure that future planting schemes can be successful and, importantly, reduce the likelihood of pests and diseases being introduced and spread into the wider environment.
The potential of ecological and epidemiological models to inform assessment and mitigation of biosecurity risks arising from large scale planting
Large scale planting projects linked to infra-structure such as transport networks and major housing projects or to planting for environmental benefits (e.g., urban greening, woodland restoration) pose high biosecurity risks due to the high number and types of plants involved. This report focusses on whether and how ecological and epidemiological model frameworks can inform assessment and mitigation of biosecurity risks from large scale planting using a combination of literature review and stakeholder engagement. The project aimed to identify priority steps to develop more useful models and tools for assessing biosecurity risks from planting in the future.
The aim of this project was to develop an operational communication plan from existing stakeholder engagement principles, communication theories and knowledge banks, identifying and summarising actions for the PHC.
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.
The increase in global trade brings with it the risk of spread of new pests and diseases into Scotland. Halyomorpha halys, Brown Marmorated Stinkbug (BMSB) is an invasive pest that has already become established in North America and several European countries. The insect aggregates inside houses over winter and can cause problems as an urban nuisance pest in homes as well as being a pest of agriculture. In this project, co-ordinated monitoring for the presence of BMSB was undertaken by teams at SASA and the James Hutton Institute. A reference collection of voucher specimens of common UK stinkbug species was established, including DNA barcoding. A process-oriented climate-based niche model was used by a team at SRUC to determine the areas in Scotland that are suitable for the establishment of BMSB under current and future climates.
Recommendations and suggested 'next steps', including encouraging further surveillance, are detailed in the report and policy summary documents.
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 project constructed a modelling framework which combined epidemiological and economic modelling. The modelling framework was used to study predictions of spread and economic impact of pests which are not currently in the UK, including Xylella fastidiosa, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (Zebra chip) and Ips typographus (Eight toothed Spruce Bark Beetle).
Impact: A web/desktop application is available to the PHC and Scottish Government to analyse the effects of climate change on the spread and economic impact of new threats.
This project has: i) reviewed possible PCN interventions; ii) modelled future risks; iii) surveyed grower behaviours and attitudes to interventions; and iv) conducted an economic analysis of likely impact in Scotland based on a range of possible interventions.
This project has expanded the PHC online Resource Bank for plant health threats to the Natural Environment sector in Scotland to include information sources for the remaining three sectors (Forestry, Agriculture and Horticulture). Information sources for Forestry, Agriculture and Horticulture were compiled and evaluated, and a Knowledge Bank relevant to each sector is now online at the PHC website, creating a comprehensive and unique signposting resource for plant health information with relevance to Scotland.
The Plant Health Centre completed an in-depth review of its first 18-months of activity for our funder (the Scottish Government through RESAS) in September 2019. While the full report is not yet available to the public, we have created a summary leaflet that outlines out achievements over this period.
Status, Scottish specific issues, Plant Health Centre perspective and Key priorities and recommendations concerning the threat from Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum to Scotland
Status, Scottish specific issues, Plant Health Centre perspective and Key priorities and recommendations concerning the threat from Potato Cyst Nematode to Scotland
Status, Scottish specific issues, Plant Health Centre perspective and Key priorities and recommendations concerning the threat from Xylella fastidiosa to Scotland
The aim of the project was to review existing websites and smartphone apps currently available and applied in the plant health sector and to assemble a detailed overview covering the following points:
- What options are available in terms of mobile software applications for plant health?
- What is their primary purpose?
- Who is the target audience (growers, plant health professionals, citizen science, …)?
- Which plant health sectors do they cover?
- Are they reliable and accurate?
- Is information submitted to a central database? If so, how is this information used?
- Could they be used globally, or are they limited to certain geographic regions?
Assessing the potential of the psyllid Trioza anthrisci to vector Liberibacter solanacearum (Lso) in Scotland
The aim of the project was to assess the distribution and population numbers of the psyllid Trioza anthrisci and it’s potential as a vector of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ (Lso). The project has allowed the PHC to better understand the distribution and number of T. anthrisci populations in carrot growing areas to better inform assessment of the risk of disease transmission to crops in Scotland.
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.