P2005346: AHDB Research Call – Reducing the impact of cabbage stem flea beetle on oilseed rape in the UK


Cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) is a major threat to the UK oilseed rape industry. In recent years, the incidence of this pest in crops has increased and populations appear to be moving into areas of the UK that were previously unaffected. Pyrethroid resistance is now widespread in CSFB populations, making conventional controls ineffective in many areas. The severity of the situation means there is a need for basic, strategic and applied research to develop Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies for CSFB.

There has been a range of research activity in recent years focused on CSFB; the challenge now is to progress this into tools or strategies that minimise the impacts of both adults and larvae for oilseed rape growers. The most recent AHDB project on Integrated Pest Management of CSFB* has highlighted a number of areas where improving knowledge of pest biology could help with decision-making around adult and larval management. Alongside this, there is a need for further on-farm testing of alternative approaches or optimised strategies that farmers can implement to reduce the impacts of CSFB damage on the crop.

*this report is due to be published in June 2020, until then draft copies can be requested from charlotte.rowley@ahdb.org.uk.


The aim of this work will be to provide workable tools to aid decision-making for farmers managing CSFB in their crops. In all areas of work, impacts on yield and the cost of production should be a primary consideration.

This call invites researchers to submit proposals for two broad areas of work on CSFB. Potential contractors may submit a proposal for one or both work packages, giving a clear indication of costs for each. Please note the different budget allocation for each work package. All funding decisions will be made in the context of the ongoing pandemic and contractors should give this due consideration when submitting work plans, including contingencies for continued lockdown. They should include a comment on the feasibility of beginning the proposed work in Autumn 2020. Consideration will be given to proposals that would require a 2021 start.

Additional budget has been made available to support research partnerships with other funding organisations for longer-term strategic work on CSFB. Potential contractors should state clearly the timelines for the proposed collaboration when applying for this funding opportunity.


Work package 1

Research into the phenology and population biology of cabbage stem flea beetle.

Recent cropping seasons have highlighted the uncertainty over the progression of CSFB infestation. For example, milder winters appear to have led to prolonged egg laying periods and later larval infestation. The impacts of this on yield and cost of production are unclear. A greater understanding of the timing of the different life stages and potential impact on the crop would benefit decision-making around key areas such as establishment, nutrition and investment in the crop. Areas of particular interest for this work are the timing of adult migration, the timing and duration of larval feeding, variation in yield impacts, and the subsequent implications for management. Improvements in monitoring methods should be considered if necessary for implementation. Work involving the period of adult aestivation and/or summer populations of CSFB may be included if it relates to future control options.

Reports of CSFB damage can vary greatly at a national and local scale, with ‘hotspots’ of activity occurring. A better understanding of the factors that lead to this variation could help identify high-risk areas year to year. Similarly, identifying and reducing within-field variation could reduce the risk to the crop as a whole. If addressing this area of work, activity to understand the impact of management decisions on CSFB populations in future years should be included.

Project proposals are not required to address all of the above topics, but justification for the selected approach should be provided. 

Work package 2

On-farm trials for alternative CSFB management approaches.

A number of approaches have been trialled with the aim of reducing CSFB damage, particularly at establishment. These have included but are not limited to, work on seed rates, drill dates, organic amendments, varietal choice, companion crops and trap crops.  As CSFB damage is so variable, there is a need to test these practical approaches in a wider range of situations, to optimise methods on farm.

Proposals should include justification of which methods to trial with the aim of reducing infestation, damage or improving establishment, along with plans to refine the approaches as part of this work. Novel approaches are encouraged if scientifically justified.

This work package should make provision to include:

  • One site hosted at AHDB Strategic Farm West, located near Leamington Spa. More information on Strategic Farm West can be found online: org.uk/farm-excellence/strategic_cereal_farm_west
  • A specified number of other on-farm trials and the proposed region(s) in which they will be located. The exact location of these trials will be determined in collaboration with AHDB before the project starts to include the AHDB monitor farm network where possible.

Trial designs and assessments should consider the budget and logistics of establishing and managing trials with farm scale machinery. Proposals could include a series of multi-site replicated tramline trials or multi-site split field trials.

Proposals should include:

  • Detailed schedule and timing of assessments

  • Cost of assessments, seed, and crop compensation if required, for each trial

  • Annual and final reports to include methodology, analysis and interpretation of the final results

  • Details of laboratories to be used for sample analysis

  • Statement of availability and description of machinery where appropriate

The successful contractor will be required to make a significant contribution to KE. Platform presentations at AHDB events may be required and the successful contractor must be able to provide suitably qualified people to speak at these events and show evidence of their experience of speaking to grower audiences. Attendance at events will be paid at a day rate plus expenses (available on request) and the costs should not be included in the contractor’s proposal.

Research co-funding opportunity

Strategic cabbage stem flea beetle research.

The scope of this part of the work is much broader, and is aimed at addressing longer-term research priorities. This may include but is not limited to innovations in understanding the genetic basis of host-plant and/or natural enemy interactions to enable novel applications in plant breeding.  Support for other ideas to generate novel technology and/or control options will also be considered. Potential contractors applying for this element of the call should have identified appropriate funding opportunities which would be benefitted by additional support from AHDB. Timelines for funding opportunities should be clearly stated in the application.

Budget, duration and collaboration

Work package 1: Research into the population biology of cabbage stem flea beetle - maximum of £50,000/pa, for up to 3 years.

Work package 2: On-farm trials for alternative approaches to cabbage stem flea beetle management - maximum of £30,000/pa for up to 3 years.

Co-funding opportunity: Strategic cabbage stem flea beetle research - maximum of £20,000/pa for up to 3 years

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. Applications involving in-kind and/or cash funding from industry are particularly encouraged.

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 30 June 2020.

Proposed timings for application and project delivery

Call Published

26 May 2020

Full Proposal submission deadline

12:00 noon on 30 June 2020

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.

Applications reviewed

Submissions will be evaluated internally using the standard assessment criteria

Applicants informed of outcome

 10 July 2020

Anticipated start date

30 July 2020

Project duration

Three years (30 July 2023)


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. All responses to questions will be anonymised and published.