Agriculture

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.

 

Projects

Project Lead: None
There are currently four undergraduate studentship bursaries available 

Anyone interested in submitting an application should send a studentship project application form to 'info@planthealthcentre.scot' by the deadline. 

Deadline for submission of application: 12:00 on Monday 6th May 2019

Deadline for questions/feedback: 12:00 on Thursday 29th April 2019 (please write to info@planthealthcentre.scot)

Date of Publication: Monday 8th April 2019

Application process: Applications should be made by the prospective supervisor (maximum one application per supervisor and per student in any one year) using the undergraduate student bursary application form. 

Reporting: A short report by the student using the undergraduate student bursary reporting form should be submitted by the supervisor no later than one month after the project completion date. 

Questions asked by those interested in submitting an application, together with answers to those questions, will be available at 'Projects/Call for Projects/Questions and Feedback'. 
Project Lead: None
The following project call is now open

Anyone interested in submitting a project proposal should send a project application form to 'info@planthealthcentre.scot' by the deadline.

Deadline for submission of application: 12:00 on Monday 6th May 2019

Deadline for questions/feedback: 12:00 on Thursday 29th April 2019 (please write to info@planthealthcentre.scot)

Date of Publication: Monday 15th April 2019

Maximum funding available (including overheads and VAT, where applicable): Indicative cost £30,000

Questions asked by those interested in submitting an application, together with answers to those questions, will be available at 'Projects/Call for Projects/Questions and Feedback'.
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 for the seed potato industry. While there is good cultivar resistance (ca 50% of potatoes in Scotland) to species Globodera rostochiensis, helping to halt its spread, there is little resistance to a second species (G. pallida), which has a greater potential to increase and spread. This is likely to have a detrimental effect on the seed industry in Scotland in the future but how much of an effect is not clear. This project is divided into four parts to help better understand the threat from PCN in the future:
• A review of possible interventions to include a review of PCN management in other countries to inform the work packages below:-
• Modelling future risks of both G. rostochiensis and G. palida using interventions identified in the review and climate scenarios.
• Grower behaviours and attitudes to interventions, to include input from industry stakeholders.
• An economic analysis of likely impact in Scotland based on a range of possible interventions.

Impact: A clearer understanding of possible control options, economic impacts of available interventions and the likelihood of growers and buyers adopting new resistant varieties, altering rotation practices or any other interventions such that recommendations on best strategies (including statutory controls) can be made.
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 which has gone on to devastate olive plantations in this region. 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, an outbreak would have serious impacts on any businesses where Xylella is detected and the wider environment. An essential aspect of ensuring that Xylella is not introduced to Scotland is to establish, through modelling, that national surveillance monitoring aimed at detecting a Xylella outbreak is effective. In addition, it is important to identify which epidemiological parameters most strongly influence the effectiveness of surveillance, to guide where future empirical research should be targeted to reduce any uncertainty.

Impact: This project will contribute to Scottish Government’s preparedness measures for the possible arrival of Xylella fastidiosa by ensuring surveillance monitoring is effective and by identifying the key knowledge gaps for effective surveillance.
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 plant health have emerged as key concerns for Scottish plant health stakeholders. There is an urgent need to quantify the impact on Scottish plant health that will arise from pesticide withdrawal scenarios and to set this in the context and time frame of alternative management tools. This will be used to inform recommendations on pesticide strategy at the Scottish, UK and EU levels going forward. A synthesis report of available information is required to identify products at risk and work through scenarios for the plant types, pests and diseases of importance in Scotland. This will be a project where cross-sectoral dialogue between the plant health sectors of agriculture / crop production, horticulture, forestry and the environment will be necessary. The project will review existing information and a key output will be summary recommendations appropriate for use by policy makes. The bid must include time to engage with in cross-sectoral dialogue and with Scottish Government staff to discuss and progress early drafts.

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.
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 therefore vital that we understand the role of climate on the impacts of such pests and diseases across the whole of Scotland, in relation to the distribution of plant hosts, allowing us to target potential control options on the main threats. To allow plant health professionals and others to assess such impacts in as straight forward a way as possible, web- / desktop-based tools are needed that offer quick and easy access to complex computer models. These models should be as comprehensive as possible, allowing new information on pests, pathogens and their hosts to be added as it becomes available.

Impact: Easily accessible tool for stakeholders and government plant health officials to assess possible impacts of climate on pests and pathogens in Scotland.
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 network analysis is required to identify the sources of information and the strength of their effect on Scottish stakeholder communities.

Impact: Improved understanding of concepts and options amongst the Scottish stakeholder community; a basis for gap analysis by the PHC.
Project Lead: Steve Woodward
Discussions at the PHC launch event, and between sector leads, indicate some distinctive and different approaches to tackling pests and diseases in Scotland are to be found across sectors and between businesses/units. Some focus on direct interventions (e.g. use of chemicals), whilst others have largely considered indirect interventions (e.g. manipulation of age structures), and understanding of integrated approaches is patchy. There is an opportunity to gather together a guide to the different approaches – which could propose a typology and set of definitions of solutions that could be used by subsequent PHC communications; provide a basis for cross-sectoral dialogue; provide a basic mapping of how the solutions are currently used by sector; and help identify untested combinations of solution and setting which could be developed.

Impact: Improved understanding of concepts and options amongst stakeholder community in
Scotland; a basis for gap analysis by PHC.
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, geographic spread, monitoring and coordinating responses etc. yet, in the world of mobile technology, we now have an opportunity to achieve some of these things from apps on our phones. Questions around the use of such technology include: What options are available in terms of mobile technologies for plant health?; What is their primary purpose?; Who are they targeted towards - farmers, plant health professionals, citizen scientists etc? Are they accurate and reliable? Do they provide real time information to a central database?; Who uses such a database?; Which sectors are they designed to work in or are they cross sector?; Do they have global use or are they limited to certain geographic regions? A review of such technologies is needed to ascertain which are most appropriate for use in Scotland across a range of sectors, which could be further adapted to achieve this aim and, if further development is required, what are the key elements of such a technology that would need to be incorporated into such a mobile application?

Impact: Improved risk assessment; better equipped stakeholders and government plant health officials; improved coordination of plant health activities in Scotland.
Project Lead: Kevin Watts
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 which has gone on to devastate olive plantations in this region. 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, an outbreak would have serious impacts on any host plant-related activities/businesses and the wider environment. An essential aspect of ensuring Scotland’s preparedness for the possible arrival of Xylella is to prepare a risk map for the likelihood of the arrival of Xylella together with the consequences for key elements of the Scottish economy (directly and indirectly impacted) in the event of an outbreak. Data relevant to the risk mapping for Scotland would include location of sites involved in plant imports, volume of plants imported, impact on business trading in plants if an outbreak is detected and the wider environmental impact.

Impact: This project will contribute to Scottish Government’s contingency and preparedness measures for the possible arrival of Xylella fastidiosa by mapping the risk of likelihood and impact of an outbreak.

Publications

Horticulture, Agriculture | Policy Document

Impact on Scottish crops if the molluscicide metaldehyde is withdrawn

January 2019

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.