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International Year of Plant Health 2020

International Year of Plant Health 2020 Logo

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations have declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant HealthLink opens in a new window

(IYPH) and have called for organisations to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

Much of the research in the School of Life Sciences is aimed at improving crop productivity and combating pests and diseases while conserving the environment in order to feed an increasing population.

The following series of articles were posted on this page throughout 2020 to highlight some of our work that relates to plant health.

1. The arms race between plants and pathogenic fungi
A new race of the soilborne pathogen Fusarium oxysporum has emerged, which is affecting growers in the UK, causing lettuce plants to wilt and die.
Our work has identified multiple sources of resistance to this new race in old lettuce varieties and related wild species sourced from the UK Vegetable Genebank at Warwick. More information

2. SMARTPROTECT a thematic network for cross regional knowledge sharing of SMART IPM solutions for farmers & advisors.
The aim of this EU funded project is to stimulate knowledge flow in the regional AKISs (Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Systems) across the EU and connect these on the innovative potential of advanced methodologies for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in vegetable production, integrating precision farming technologies and data analytics.

3. A new generation of plant disease resistances
Plants are in a constant battle against the different pathogens that attack them. Scientists and plant breeders have focussed much of their effort and resources on identifying single dominant (R) genes to provide resistance against plant pathogens.

Unfortunately, most R genes have a short lifespan in that they are only effective against a narrow spectrum of strains of the pathogens they target and the pathogens can rapidly mutate to overcome the resistances. More information

4. Keeping a watchful eye on pests
It is thought that, in the absence of control methods, crop losses due to pest insects might be in the order of 15-20% globally (Journal of Agricultural Science, Crop Losses to Pests, Feb 2006). However, pest numbers fluctuate considerably from place-to-place and year-to-year, as does the timing of pest infestations. To make best use of resources and minimise pesticide treatments it’s become increasingly important to know when certain pests are likely to infest individual crops. This may be through monitoring pest abundance on plants, trapping adult insects as they disperse, or by using previously-established relationships with weather conditions to predict when crops are at risk. More information

5. Developing an IPM strategy for managing aphids on brassica crops
Aphids are economically important pests of a wide range of crops and control relies mainly on applications of synthetic chemical pesticides. However, pressures on growers to reduce the use of pesticides, together with increasing failures of aphid control due to the evolution of pesticide resistance, have raised serious questions about the long-term viability of this approach. Alternative methods of managing aphids are needed urgently. Andy Gladman, a PhD student at the Crop Centre is investigating the development of a novel management strategy for pest aphids of Brassica crops which aims to combine partial host plant resistance with biological control. More information

6. Producing an edible lettuce: pesticides or crop genetics?
A healthy looking vegetable from the supermarkets, largely free from blemishes and creepy crawlies is very likely to have been treated multiple times with different pesticides. Pesticides in crop production however usually affect a wider range of species than those we want to control, they are an extra cost to farmers, and they confer a high selection pressure on the pests which in time inevitably evolve resistance to the chemical and thus diminish its efficacy. One way to reduce the environmental impact of pest control is to breed plants that are innately resistant to the pests. More information

7. Food crops to boost our health from British sunshine
We all need to eat well, especially now that living within our means is our new normal. Eating well determines our personal health and how much burden we collectively place on our healthcare system. It determines the impact we have on our environment, at home and across the globe. It connects us across living at all levels of personal health, home, community, country, continent and globe. Good news: if we follow evidence-based advice, we can eat our way to a healthier, more resilient and Greener Britain simply by shifting our diet to more legumes (to reduce demand for meat) and more vegetables and fruits. More information