P1903295: AHDB Research Call: Bacterial Pathogens of UK Crops

P1903295: AHDB Research Call: Bacterial Pathogens of UK Crops


AHDB has previously funded a wide variety of research and knowledge exchange activities designed to inform growers and agronomists and offer control options for bacterial diseases (see 6. Related Information).  However, in a number of crops, diseases caused by bacterial pathogens continue to cause economic impacts. 

Host resistance, diagnostic assays, assurance of healthy/clean planting material, knowledge of disease epidemiology, cultural management practices, and the use of chemical, biological and novel plant protection products for treatment of seed and plants, are all areas where there is scope to develop improvements to help growers.

Purpose/Primary Objective

The AHDB wish to commission research and knowledge exchange that will provide information and opportunities to reduce the economic impacts in the short, medium and longer-term for diseases caused by a range of bacterial pathogens in a number of UK crops.


Work should be relevant to bacterial diseases of horticultural crops in the UK, focusing on the following sectors: Field Vegetables, Hardy Nursery Stock and Protected Ornamentals.  Additional details around the crop/pathogen combinations is provided in Table 2 below.

Work on crops such as hops and grapes is not included in this call.  Due to on-going research funded elsewhere, work on Xylella fastidiosa is also not included in this call.  Bacterial diseases in mushrooms will be considered in a supplementary call, and should not  be included in proposals for this request for proposals.  Additional research on blackleg on potatoes is currently not included in this call.

Specific Objectives

Host resistance

Whilst some sectors are already engaged in this type of activity e.g. Prunus spp. in the Tree Fruit sector, AHDB are keen to support the development of further tools e.g. the identification of breeding markers and of mechanisms to induce host-resistance, or that block infection routes, are of interest. 

Suggested crops where this approach could be relevant:

  • Spear-rot of broccoli (see factsheet 04/19)

  • Nursery stock hosts; Prunus, Hedera etc.

Healthy start

Many of the bacterial problems experienced by UK growers are linked to seed-borne pathogens, or arrive on bought-in or imported cutting material and young plants.  Confidence around the health of these types of steps in the production chain could improve management practice and reduce the need for control options and waste.

The development of a range of tools to help growers start production with healthy planting material is desirable.  These may take the form of improved laboratory seed testing, high-health propagation or in-field diagnostics for use prior to planting as examples. Development of diagnostic assays needs to be supported by appropriate sampling methodology.

For bacterial diseases where the relative importance of introduction via seed / planting material is not known, studies on disease transmission, infection risk and patterns of spread may be required to guide the appropriate management practices.

Suggested crops where this approach could be relevant:

  • Spear-rot of broccoli (see factsheet 04/19)

  • Ornamental Prunus, diagnostics for testing bought-in plant material

  • A range of seed-raised crops; courgette/pumpkin, parsley, pot/bedding and nursery stock ornamentals e.g. Primula, Salvia, Delphinium, Erysimum, Aquilegia.

  • Ornamental corm raised material; Cyclamen, Begonia

  • Ornamental cutting raised material; Pelargonium/Geranium

Novel management options

Irrigation management and the importance of plant spacing to aid air movement are well understood by all crop sectors, but are often hard to implement due to tight economic margins.

Novel approaches to crop management are required e.g. the use of light spectra, disinfection, imaging, novel surfaces which inhibit the development of bacteria or biofilms etc., are suggestions.

Suggested crops where this approach could be relevant:

  • Brassicas and cucurbits (courgette & pumpkin) in propagation

  • Container-raised Hardy nursery stock

  • Pot & Bedding production

Plant protection products

The loss of copper oxychloride for management of bacterial pathogens is causing wide concern amongst many crop sectors. Alternative conventional and biological crop protection strategies are required. The AHDB would like to draw attention to recent EU-funded work undertaken in the CO-Free project which identified a number of alternative products which may provide a starting point to future activity within this objective.  Additional novel strategies e.g. phage are also of interest.  AHDB do not fund product development, however research which advances the potential for commercial development of such products is of interest.

Suggested crops where this approach could be relevant:

  • Brassicas in propagation and field

  • Outdoor cucurbits in propagation and field

  • Nursery stock production

  • Pot & Bedding production

Knowledge Exchange

As Knowledge Exchange is a key element of AHDB activity, detail of the Knowledge Exchange plan should also be included. Minimum requirements include publication of results as part of a best practice guide or factsheet and in the Grower magazine, presentation of results to growers at grower meetings and/or conferences, and social media activity. More novel approaches to knowledge exchange are encouraged and should be outlined in proposals.

PLEASE NOTE: Whilst a selection of crops for each objective have been suggested, based on in-depth consultation with these crop sectors, they are advisory and can be expanded into other crops within the Field Veg, Hardy Nursery Stock and Protected Ornamentals sectors.

Related information

Table 1. Previously funded AHDB work bacterial pathogens

Project Number


CP 174

Review of bacterial pathogens of economic importance to UK crops

CP 178

Population genetics to understand the mechanisms of Xylella pathogenesis to inform novel control measures

FV 104b

Calabrese: towards an integrated approach to controlling bacterial spear rot

FV 186a

Brassicas: use of copper sprays to control black rot during transplant production

FV 186b

Evaluation of a range of water disinfection treatments for the prevention of black rot Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris during module production of Brassica seedlings

FV 335

Evaluation of disinfectants, biological and natural products for control of Brassica black rot (Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris)

FV 378

Assessment of plant elicitors to induce resistance against headrot in broccoli

FV 393

Reducing bacterial infection in seed onions through the use of plant elicitors

PC 199

Protected lettuce: biology and control of bacterial leaf rot (petiole blackening)

PC 291

Protected ornamentals: evaluation of control options for bacterial diseases of pot plants

M 063

Mushrooms: Identification, detection and control of Pseudomonas species causing different types of bacterial blotch symptoms

HNS 179

Management of Bacterial Canker in Prunus spp.

TF 217

Improving the management of bacterial canker in stone fruits

TF 223

Improving integrated pest & disease management in tree fruit

TF 227

Development of durable resistance to canker in Cherry - BBSRC

AHDB Horticulture Knowledge transfer covering this topic

04/19 Spear-rot on Calabrese

03/19 Black rot in Vegetable Brassicas

03/18 Vegetable seed quality, storage and handling

26/12 Bacterial diseases of protected ornamentals

04/10 Bacterial shot-hole of cherry laurel

16/13 Bacterial diseases of herbaceous plants

These reports and publications are available from the AHDB Horticulture website horticulture.ahdb.org.uk

Crop relevant information

Information collated from previously commissioned gap analyses in crop protection and from relevant industry priority documents provide a useful starting point for contractors wishing to develop work for this call.

Table 2.  AHDB crop specific targets





Field Veg

Brassica propagation & field

Xanthomonas campestris


Field Veg

Calabrese – head rot

Pseudomonas fluorescens


Field Veg

Outdoor Cucurbits prop & field, stem rots



Field Veg

Field Parsley

Pseudomonas syringae pv. apii


Hardy Nursery Stock

Prunus (cherry laurel) – bacterial spot & canker

Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae

Risk of Xanthomonas arboricola pv. prunei



Hardy Nursery Stock

Hedera – leaf spots and stem canker

Xanthomonas campestris pv. hederae


Hardy Nursery Stock

Leaf spots on a range of hosts (Aquilegia, Pelargonium, Delphinium)

Xanthomonas spp. and Pseudomonas spp.


Moderate - High

Protected Ornamentals

Bacterial leaf spots and blights in higher value pot plants & pack and pot grown bedding



Protected Ornamentals

Bacterial soft rot, corm rot, rhizome rot in higher value pot plants



Budget and duration, collaboration and co-sponsorship

A maximum budget of £200,000 has been allocated for this project, which has a duration of three years. Of this total £20K has been allocated to the co-funding opportunities which may present themselves in any of the areas listed under ‘Specific Objectives’ above.  Co-funding money may be accessed as a cash input to a larger project e.g. via BBSRC or similar.

AHDB reserves the right to consider budget limits and constraints when assessing submissions and may choose not to make an award if submitted ideas prove unaffordable at this time within the context of the wider programme of AHDB work.

AHDB may, if it is deemed desirable, request applicants to form a project consortium.

For certain work packages, priority will be given to the applicants with cash and/or in-kind funding from alternative funding bodies, or commercial partners.

Completion and submission of the application form

Please refer to the guidance notes for completion of application forms. Applicants should complete the AHDB Research and KE Application Form - Full Proposal Large. Completed forms must be emailed to research@ahdb.org.uk no later than 12.00 noon on the 14th June 2019

Proposed timings for application and project delivery

Call Published

07 May 2019

Full Proposal submission deadline

12:00 noon on 14 June 2019

There is no Concept or Expressions of Interest phase.

Make an electronic submission to research@ahdb.org.uk 

Receipt will be the time of receiving email.

Applicants informed of outcome

21 June 2019

Anticipated start date

01 August 2019

Project duration

Three years (ending July 2022)


If you have a specific question related to this call, please email research@ahdb.org.uk. As part of the open tender process, AHDB cannot discuss specific project details with you before submitting your proposal. Answers to specific questions will be posted on the AHDB procurement webpage.

Assessment criteria

Evaluation of submissions

A number of criteria will used to judge the quality of the submissions (value in brackets indicates weight in assessment process)

Project Title:



SECTION 2: THE BUSINESS CASE (3x weighting, total 30 points; PASS THRESHOLD = 15)

Evidence for the project demand including current cost of the problem to industry. Justification for levy funding. Quantification of proposed economic benefits and a realistic cost:benefit proposal. Details for supporting industry sustainability. Environmental benefits appropriately identified and any negative impacts detailed. Details of how the project will solve a supply chain problem and support good decision making. Relevance to AHDB priorities.



Section Score:

Section Total:

SECTION 3: PROJECT OUTCOMES (2x weighting, total 20 points)

Beneficiaries appropriately identified. Approach to deliver industry KE and links to existing AHDB KE activities. Appropriateness and clarity of industry engagement. Timeframe qualified to deliver impact. Clarification over additional activities/resource required to deliver impact. Skills & training opportunities identified. Clear IP exploitation plan where relevant.



Section Score:

Section Total:

SECTION 4: TECHNICAL APPROACH AND WORK PLAN (3x weighting, total 30 points)

Evaluation of current knowledge (appropriate references used) and awareness of other work. Clarity of aims, objectives, work packages and milestone schedule. Originality & innovation. Effective collaboration with commercial companies. Is the approach statistically robust? Feasibility and risk management.



Section Score:

Section Total:


Knowledge and expertise. Quality of past contributions to, and impact on, the topic. Potential to bring added value through current and/or past contributions. Complementarities of expertise of the team.



Section Total:

SECTION 6: PROJECT COSTS (total 10 points)

Are costs reasonable and necessary? Will the total budget be adequate to carry out the proposed activities? For a cross-Sector proposal, is the shared budget appropriate & clearly defined? Added value of co-funding?



Section Total:

Total Points            out of 100

Recommend for Funding           Yes / No

Weightings are set to reflect the importance of specific criteria, any proposal failing to achieve a specified threshold may be rejected. They have been set to ensure appropriate standards are met.

AHDB Scoring Guidelines



Exceptional quality; cutting-edge; highly likely to produce benefits/impact of great importance to the industry; highly innovative; impactful KE activities proposed; applicant is widely recognized in the field with an outstanding record of accomplishment; consortium is strong across all technical areas needed to accomplish the proposed outcomes. Strongly recommend support


Very good          


High quality; potential to make an important contribution; innovative; likely to produce significant benefits/ impact for the industry; impactful KE activities proposed; applicant has a good reputation in the field; consortium appears to have more than adequate expertise across all technical areas required to deliver the proposed outcomes. Strongly recommend support



Interesting; innovative; likely to produce good benefits/impact; good grasp of appropriate KE activities; applicant has a solid reputation in the field; consortium appears to have adequate expertise across all technical areas required to deliver the proposed outcomes. Should be supported



Interesting but little originality; likelihood of making significant impact is small; may require significant additional investment to deliver benefits; applicant/team lacks experience, has not established leadership in the field or demonstrated the potential to make impactful contributions. Support may be considered if strong in other areas



Poor quality; not well planned; lacking expertise; not feasible; unlikely to make an important contribution to fundamental or applied knowledge; unlikely to produce benefits/impact; lacking convincing evidence that the proposing team has sufficient and appropriate expertise to accomplish all of the tasks as outlined in the proposal. Should not be supported


Very poor           

Very poor quality; duplicative of other work; fails to address the issues; no evidence for demand; cannot be judged against the criterion due to missing or incomplete information. Should not be supported