P1906305: AHDB Research Call: Autumn survey of wheat bulb fly incidence 2019-2022

P1906305: AHDB Research Call: Autumn survey of wheat bulb fly incidence 2019-2022

Purpose/Primary Objective

To provide an early indication of wheat bulb fly incidence in eastern and northern areas of England to enable growers to make decisions about the need for seed treatments in late-sown winter cereals.


All cereals except oats can be attacked by wheat bulb fly (WBF), although damage is most frequently reported in wheat. WBF prefers to lay eggs in bare soil from late July until early September, particularly if it has been freshly cultivated. Risk is therefore higher after fallows, early harvested crops, such as vining peas, or row crops, such as potatoes, sugar beet and onions. The pest is most prevalent in eastern England.

Late-sown (after November) winter wheat crops and spring crops (before the end of March) can be more vulnerable to WBF, because the tillering window is short. In fact, many crops may have only a single tiller when the WBF egg hatch occurs, between January and March. Each larva can attack several tillers. Attacked tillers eventually die back to show the classic 'deadheart' symptoms.

Due to recent withdrawals, chemical options for control of WBF are limited to seed treatments. Seed treatments are only effective in late sown crops due to persistence, and early-sown crops are unlikely to benefit anyway as they have more time to tiller and withstand attack.

Every year, AHDB publishes a survey of WBF egg laying to give growers an indication of whether seed treatments might be necessary in late-sown crops. Where eggs counts exceed 100 eggs/m2, there is considered to be a risk to late-sown crops.


The WBF survey is based on egg counts taken from soil samples to give a count of eggs/m2. Previously counts have been done on soil cores taken from 30 fields split equally across northern and eastern England, in fields following high risk preceding crops. It is anticipated that proposals will provide the same level of regional coverage, unless justification can be provided for an alternative approach.

It is expected that where egg numbers are to be assessed with soil sampling, applicants will follow the same methodology used in previous WBF surveys (see previous project reports). However, proposals for alternative methods of assessing WBF incidence are also encouraged. For example, means of forecasting or adult monitoring have been explored in the past (Cooper, 1981; Young & Cochrane, 1993). Any alternative survey method will need to be validated alongside the egg count threshold to give a suitable indication of risk. Alternative methods may be proposed instead of, or alongside, soil sampling and applicants may wish to present both options separately with justifications for each. Where proposals for alternative methods exceed the current research budget, they may be considered for future funding and therefore applicants are encouraged to present these ideas as additional areas of work, including an estimated timescale and budget.

It is expected that early indications of WBF incidence (results from half of the sites) will be delivered in early September, with the final report due at the start of October of the same survey year in order for growers to make decisions on the need for seed treatments.

Collaboration and co-sponsorship

Joint applications from two or more organisations are acceptable and encouraged where there is added value. AHDB reserves the right to not proceed with any application or, if appropriate, to request applicants to form a consortium to work together to deliver a programme of activities.

Budget and duration

AHDB has set aside a maximum budget of £30,000 over three years for this activity. The contract for the survey will commence, at the earliest, on 15 July 2019.

Application procedure

Applicants should complete an AHDB Research and KE Application Form – Full Proposal Small, referring to the guidance notes to aid completion. The criteria upon which the proposals will be assessed are outlined at the end of the application form.

Applications are made on the basis of the AHDB Research Funding Agreement (RFA) and any organisation receiving funding shall comply with the terms and conditions specified in the RFA. AHDB will not be held responsible for any expenses or losses incurred by applicants in the preparation of an application(s).

Completed application forms should be submitted to research@ahdb.org.uk no later than mid-day on the 5 July 2019.

Proposed timings for application and project delivery

Stage of Process


Call published

7 June 2019

Full proposal submission deadline

Mid-day on 5 July 2019

Applicants informed of outcome

July 2019

Project commencement

July/August 2019

Project completion

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 prior to submission of a proposal. Questions and Answers will be published on the AHDB website.

Related information

Annual survey of wheat bulb fly incidence project reports 2011-2018:


Cooper D A. 1981. Forecasting egg populations of wheat bulb fly, Delia coarctata (Fall.) from catches of adult females in water traps. Plant Pathology 30:31-35

Young J E B, Cochrane J. 1993. Changes in wheat bulb fly (Delia coarctata) populations in East

Anglia in relation to crop rotations, climatic data and damage forecasting. Annals of Applied

Biology. 123:485-498.