27 Projects, page 1 of 6
- Project . 2022 - 2023Funder: UKRI Project Code: BB/X005232/1Funder Contribution: 31,840 GBPPartners: CABI
The need to meet the increasing demand for food while growing crops more sustainably is a major global challenge. For more sustainable crop production, there is an urgent need to reduce reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides on farms, as these have led to impoverished soils, widespread pest and disease resistance, water contamination and a significant loss of biodiversity. In the UK, there are presently around 2,400 authorised plant protection products (PPPs) based on synthetic chemistry, but far fewer sustainable options such as biopesticides, e.g., naturally occurring microorganisms that inhibit spread of crop pests. Of the latter, only a small handful are permitted on arable crops. This absence of effective, alternative options means growers are presently unable to meet demands from consumers, environmental bodies and policy makers, for a more sustainable approach to farming. This is exacerbated by poor efficacy of existing biopesticides. One fundamental reason for their poor efficacy is that biospesticides generally do not maintain the necessary concentrations in the environment for suitable amounts of time. Therefore, they may no longer be active when they are most needed, as pests proliferate; and it is not feasible for farmers to try to time their deployment through ongoing crop monitoring. This project will establish an interdisciplinary community to redress this problem. The timeliness for the project is clear: if we are to change our farming habits to help create healthier soils, cleaner water and safer, more sustainable farming we need action to give growers the correct tools to make it happen. To provide such tools, we will introduce additive-manufacturing capability to engineer the encapsulation and delivery of biopesticidal fungal spores via concepts similar to those used for 3D printed 'polypills' in biomedicine. That is, the pest controlling organisms will be incorporated into polymeric 'capsules' and their release controlled and driven by the very same environmental triggers as those that signal the growth of the pests - the controlling organisms would emerge at the same time as the pests, giving rise to a timely biological competition during which the biopesticide can act optimally and plant growth can thrive. For proof-of-concept in this project, we will focus on fungal release from manufactured capsules using moisture and pH triggers (each of which is a common indicator coincident with pest proliferation), tested using selected fungi representative of a range having biopesticidal potential against important pests such as cyst nematodes (which are responsible for significant losses of arable crops in the UK and globally). Our technical work will deliver optimisation of fungal-spore encapsulation and environmentally-triggered release in conjunction with biological assay of fungal viability and outgrowth pre- and post-release. This work will be complemented by close engagement with key industry partners and stakeholders to guide development towards application of the proposed technology. The investigators comprise a new, inter-disciplinary collaboration of scientists based at academic and non-academic organizations, with expertise encompassing fungal biology, additive manufacturing and biopesticides. Positive progress in this project will crystallize the focus of a community of key players and beneficiaries around development of the biopesticidal capsules and the common mission to slow or reverse the deterioration of our crop production by pests.
- Project . 2020 - 2022Funder: UKRI Project Code: ST/V000306/1Funder Contribution: 404,262 GBPPartners: CABI
Pests and diseases cause significant losses of crops around the world and is a significant threat to food security. In China the migratory locust affects over 2 million hectares of agricultural land, while in Laos the yellow spined bamboo locust which is widespread across the 9 districts of Norther Laos and damaged over 5,000 hectares of crops in 2019. A new invasive pest, the Fall Army Worm is becoming prevalent in Southeast Asia and China. It has been found in 22 provinces in China and affected 35,000 hectares of maize in Laos. Experience from Africa shows it can cause almost total crop losses. Managing the damage from pests can be difficult due to lack of detailed information on where risks to crops are greatest, use of inappropriate or ineffective control measures, and build of resistance in pest populations to chemical pesticides. In addition overuse of chemical pesticides causes environmental damage in the form of loss of biodiversity and through chemical residues left in the environment, particularly in waterways. In this project we will use Earth observation and meteorological data to provide information that will help farmers and agricultural authorities manage pest risk more sustainably. Using Earth observation imagery we will prepare risk maps that identify habitats where locusts and fall armyworm are most likely to establish populations. Using satellite data on surface temperature we will develop and run models that predict i) the growth of insect populations and ii) the effectiveness of biological control methods. The models will provide information to help preparedness and to guide the timing of application of biopesticides. The project will build upon work already undertaken in North-East China and apply it in the Southern Chinese province of Hainan, and in Laos. We will provide risk base maps and information products that help chose the method and timing of interventions. We will work with agricultural management authorities in China and Laos, providing training in the use of the information.
- Project . 2020 - 2025Funder: UKRI Project Code: BB/T019700/1Funder Contribution: 446,508 GBPPartners: CABI
This project, The UK Crop Microbiome Cryobank (UKCMCB) will establish a total resource of microorganisms and information associated with the microbiome of the UKs major crops. It brings together four leading institutions: Rothamsted Research, CABI, the James Hutton Institute and the John Innes Centre (in association with UEA). Each has a proven track record of working with industry, working at the forefront of pure and applied Agritech research. The plant microbiome mainly consists of fungi, bacteria and viruses that are associated with a plant and includes microbes that can be isolated and cultured and those that currently are currently not amenable to culture. Microbial consortia include members that help the plant host by providing nutrients, help prevent disease or allow a plant to tolerate environmental conditions. Driven by academic research and Agritech industry needs, it will provide a resource to underpin research on the Crop Microbiome, delivering sustainable solutions to improve plant health and crop productivity. The resource will facilitate better understanding of microbial community interactions, including the host plant and other components of the 'Phytobiome', and thereby impact plant health, from improvements in rhizosphere health through to control of biological threats. The resource will comprise: -A publicly available integrated Cryobank collection of samples (rhizoplane material -soils, bacterial and fungal isolates, plant material, and DNA) taken initially from 315 samples from systems significant to the UK Agritech sector. Initial focus will be on 6 crops (barley, oats, oil seed rape, potato, sugar beet and wheat ) from 9 different soil sites from across the UK. This will be supplemented with culturable material from the samples. Samples will be optimally preserved at ultra-low temperature using state-of-the-art technologies. -A curated AgMicrobiome Base of sample information with annotated sequences and meta-data for end-users. This will be the first synchronised resource covering the total microbiome of a variety of crops in identical soil types, supported by a bioinformatics resource, microbiologists, plant and crop health experts, with world class storage facilities. Provision of material will allow research into unexplored cultural biodiversity. - A further work package will be focussed on demonstrating the utility of the UK-CMCB for isolation of plant growth promoting bacteria and synthetic community construction. This will involve characterisation of the culturable microbiota associated with UK crop plants and the generation of crop-associated synthetic microbial communities (SynComs) and testing for positive plant growth traits. The microbes generated through this work package will be added to the CryoBank and made available to the public. The plant culture and microbial isolation work will take place at Rothamsted Research, biological resources will be held and curated in association with national collections at CABI, while JHI & Rothamsted will manage generation of functional data for the sequence resource. JIC in association with UEA will undertake the work on synthetic community construction. Samples will undergo microbial community profiling, and all microbial isolates will undergo phylogenetic characterisation and a subset of these will undergo full genome sequencing. All meta genomes and genomes will be deposited in a freely accessible database resource after sequence annotation, and provide a microbial genome resource for the research community This will result in the creation of a unique, world-leading combined resource of microbiome material, microorganisms, DNA and associated data useful for both academic and commercial research with potential for deployment in sustainable Agriculture
- Project . 2016 - 2020Funder: UKRI Project Code: ST/N006712/1Funder Contribution: 1,211,940 GBPPartners: CABI
The project aims to bring together and produce cutting edge research to provide pest and disease monitoring and forecast information, integrating multi-source (Earth Observation (EO), meteorological and vertical looking radar) to support decision making in the sustainable management of insect pests and diseases. The project will explore the integration and fusion of new data sources from recently launched satellites with existing data products. This will overcome spatial and temporal differences to produce new data solutions and algorithms which are suitable for pest and disease monitoring and prediction, intervention efficacy forecasting and estimation of yield losses. The new data products and algorithms will be tested using two candidate systems: a fungal disease of wheat (stripe rust) and a serious insect pest (migratory locust). The corresponding efficacy of a biopesticide used to control the locust will also be explored, with the aim to investigate whether the same data inputs produced during this project can be utilised under a wide range of systems, leading to a greater impact of data assimilation in the future. Models will be validated in the laboratory and in the field to give a measure of certainty of predictions. Additionally, risk and loss estimation will be investigated using cutting edge EO techniques, and monitoring of locusts will be explored using Vertical Looking Radar, a technology which is capable of identifying the size and species of insect flying through a radar beam. In addition to building monitoring and forecasting systems with data assimilated during this project, routes to extend this information to appropriate end users will be explored to ensure maximum impact of technologies developed during the project. The project consortium will work closely with NATESC in China to ensure the system is built in a way that is compatible with existing methods of information dissemination. The project consortium is a strong multidisciplinary team with expertise in EO, vertical-looking radar technology and agricultural research and extension.
- Project . 2009 - 2013Funder: UKRI Project Code: BB/H009655/1Funder Contribution: 198,700 GBPPartners: CABI
Bioenergy crops have gained international prominence as fossil fuel prices increase and concerns about climate change grow. Increasing demand for bioenergy crops on international markets might lead to conflict with smallholder food production in the tropics and/or act as a driver of deforestation if large scale forest land conversions are initiated. Alternatively, smallholders might not jeopardise their own food security, and would grow bioenergy crops alongside food crops, incorporating their production into their current land use systems, increasing cash flow and thus permitting them to purchase inputs to intensify food production. The profitability, energy balance, social and ecological impacts will depend on the bioenergy crop used, how it is grown, with which inputs, on what type of land, what, if any, are the alternative uses of that land, and who reaps the benefit. So whether biofuel production is a threat or an opportunity will depend on the specific context. Jatropha curcas is a shrub, native to central America but is cultivated across the tropics. It is being promoted as a bioenergy crop as its seeds contain 20-30% oil, which can be easily extracted and converted to biodiesel. In Mexico, jatropha is traditionally used as a hedge. Large scale plantings were initiated in early 2006. By 2008, 20,000 ha were planted in Chiapas state and it is expected that 150,000 ha will be planted Veracruz state in the next two years. In India, large-scale land conversions to jatropha have been initiated, for example, more than 400,000 hectares of land in Uttar Pradesh state and the Indian government has proposed that biofuels account for 20% of its transportation fuel consumption by 2017, from the present 5%. Yet, despite these ambitious projects, little is known about its yield, pest and disease problems and environmental impact and so in which context it would be advisable to grow jatropha, rather than another bioenergy crop, such as Elaeis guineensis (oil palm). To some extent, ecological ranges of jatropha and oil palm overlap. In India, state governments of Orissa and Tamil Nadu are encouraging farmers to plant oil palm, given that India consumes an estimated 4.2 megatonnes per year. Similarly in Mexico, there are some large scale oil palm initiatives. This project aims to assess profitability, economic, social and environmental impacts of the production of two bioenergy crops, jatropha and oil palm. With data obtained it aims to identify the most suitable areas and conditions for sustainable and profitable yields and the extent of economic, social and environmental production risks. It aims to identify current shortfalls in land tenure systems or law and develop legislation to ensure social sustainability and equity of bioenergy projects.