Plant Pathology and Disease Management
Undertaking high quality research and monitoring to provide robust evidence, solutions and advice on the epidemiology and control of plant diseases in agriculture, horticulture and the natural environment (including trees).
What we do
The team specialises in strategic research into the biology and control of diseases of agricultural, horticultural and tree health importance, to support sustainable crop production and protetion of the environment from disease threats. A key theme of the team's work is in disease surveillance and risk forecasting which is strongly supported by the team's specialism in epidemiology, pathogen and disease identification, molecular diagnosis, spatial aspects of disease spread, knowledge management and transfer.
We have considerable expertise in research of pathogen epidemiology, disease management strategies, chemical applications, pesticide efficacy testing (ORETO registered) and monitoring for resistance in pathogen populations. The team is a leading provider of research on quarantine plant pathogens and have specialised quarantine laboratories and glasshouses which are used in studies on epidemiology and control of pathogens of current and future threat to the UK.
The team maintain a number of culture collections of major plant pathogens including Fusarium species, Septoria tritici, Phytophthora ramorum, P. kernoviae and Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (the cause of ash dieback). Additional collection of isolates can be undertaken on request, particularly pathogens of wheat and oilseed rape.
We undertake research for a wide range of customers including Defra, HGCA, HDC, PCL, RERAD and EU as well as bespoke studies for commercial customers.
- Development of integrated control strategies for endemic and invasive plant diseases
Research and development into the efficacy of chemicals and biocontrol agents for control of indigenous and non-indigenous plants pathogens in both in vitro and in planta tests. Field trials to determine optimal timing and dose of fungicides for disease control. Laboratory tests to measure the occurrence of fungicide resistance within pathogen populations
- Quantitative measurement of pathogen incidence and severity
Measurement of disease incidence using expert visual assessment, pathogen isolation, measurement of spore loads using spore traps and quantitative molecular detection using PCR and sequencing techniques.
- Pathogen Epidemiology
Considerable expertise in developing understanding of pathogen epidemiology factors important for disease management, particularly for recently described species for which little published information is available. Track record in pathogen surveillance and detection, mapping of disease spread, monitoring of inoculum loads and evaluation of factors affecting pathogen infection, germination, growth, sporulation, dispersal and survival.
- Risk assessment and disease forecasting
Expertise in use of data from epidemiological studies and pathogen surveillance to determine risk thresholds for infection and spread. Development of risk models and disease forecasts. The team lead the CropMonitorTM project which delivers weekly forecasts of risks of wheat diseases.
- Long term datasets
The team lead the Defra national surveys of winter wheat and winter oilseed rape and hold annual data on pest and disease incidence and agronomic practice for the years 1975-current for winter wheat and 1987-current for winter oilseed rape. Bespoke analyses can be undertaken to investigate long term trends. Recent examples include the effects of climate on pest and disease incidence, potential effects of changes in EU regulations on pesticides on crop production and analysis of the effectiveness of current management practices for key wheat pathogens.
Our recently delivered solutions:
- Testing of approved fungicides and novel control methods for efficacy against a range of plant pathogens including quarantine pathogens such as Phytophthora ramorum and Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (the cause of ash dieback)
- Specialist field trials to assess efficacy of fungicides against Fusarium ear blight
- Field trials to determine optimal timing and dose of fungicides against Fusarium ear blight
- Monitoring for resistance in impatiens downy mildew
- Early season forecasts of national and regional Septoria leaf blotch severity in wheat crops and daily updates on risk of infection from the four major foliar pathogens delivered via the CropMonitor™ website
- Launch of the CropMonitor™ app. - one of the first smartphone apps delivered to the agricultural industry
- Monitoring of invasive pathogen spread using spore trapping and bait plants