Winning projects announced to tackle key horticulture pests and diseases

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

A new diagnostic test to identify an emerging pest threat in the UK is one of five new research projects we are pleased to award in partnership with BBSRC.

The brown marmorated stink bug is native to Asia, but has been confirmed in south east England. It can cause significant damage to a range of plants including soft fruit, ornamentals, field vegetables and tree fruit. Researchers hope to develop a rapid DNA-based identification tool, as it can easily be mistaken for the UK-native shield bug.

The project is one of five successful research programmes that will tackle high priority pests and diseases thanks to a new £250,000 initiative from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and AHDB.

The other winning projects include research to develop pheromone traps to help control and monitor Nesidiocoris tenuis, a pest that can damage tomato crops, as well as developing new and improved methods to isolate pheromones from horticultural thrips.

In addition there will be an evaluation to see whether a diagnostic test for Fusarium basal rot in bulb onions is effective prior to planting, as well as a project to develop a new resource in genomics to improve the understanding of downy mildew.

Dr Nikki Harrison, Horticulture Senior Scientist at AHDB, said: “The quality of the proposals we received for the funding was exceptional and we’re confident that this joint initiative will deliver critical and tangible results for some of the biggest threats facing the industry.

“We hope this new partnership approach with BBSRC will lead to longer-term research opportunities and funding for the horticultural sector in the future.”

The five projects will run until March 2020 and the results will be shared with the industry when available.

The winning projects were agreed by a panel of experts from across the horticultural industry and academic community, and were awarded based on robust criteria including scientific quality and the potential to deliver a significant positive impact to horticultural growers and businesses.

Brown marmorated stink bug, (c) Tim Haye, CABI.

Identification of the sex pheromone of Nesidiocoris tenuis. Dr Michelle Fountain, NIAB EMR, £49,540

This project will aim to identify, produce and field test the sex pheromone of N. tenuis, paving the way for development of pheromone-baited traps for better monitoring of pest numbers and more efficient use of control agents 

Identification of pheromones to trap thrips. Prof. William Kirk, Keele University, £31,987

This project will develop a more sensitive method to detect trace amounts of pheromones in thrips and thus allow the identification of the pheromones of high priority pest species of thrips in UK horticulture

Rapid genomics approaches for downy mildews on high-value crops. Dr Thomas Wood, NIAB, £49,308

The project will develop a key set of public downy mildew genomics resources that can be exploited by academia and industry to speed up understanding of these complex pathogens and to identify practical solutions to help control disease

Developing disease prediction of onion basal rot using a quantitative molecular test. Dr John Clarkson, University of Warwick, £ 48,992

AHDB previously developed a DNA-based quantitative molecular diagnostic (qPCR) assay for onion basal rot and the aim of this project is to evaluate the feasibility of using this test pre-planting to assess disease risk for growers

A rapid identification method for brown marmorated stink bug. Dr Glen Powell, NIAB EMR, £ 49,272

The brown marmorated stink bug is a serious and generalist pest native to Asia but spreading globally with serious impacts on agricultural productivity. This project will develop a rapid DNA-based method to detect the bug.