The UK’s Rothamsted Research has secured around £6.3 million (€6.8 million) of government funding to kick-start its new five-year strategic programme. Called Smart Crop Protection (SCP), the ENDURE partner's programme is focused on the sustainable control of pests, pathogens and weeds.
SCP will be seeking to boost crop productivity “by using the latest technology to detect, monitor, predict and control insect pests, plant pathogens and weeds. The programme integrates chemical, genetic, biological, ecological, mathematical and agronomic approaches to deliver more targeted control strategies.”
Paul Neve, who is leading the SCP programme, told the Rothamsted Research website: “Through this investment, we aim to deliver a new vision for managing crop health. Using the latest technologies, our goal is to limit the incidence, distribution, dispersal, evolutions and impact of crop biotic threats. We also aim to maximise the efficacy and sustainability of control interventions.”
Rothamsted notes that there is an urgent need for innovation in crop protection, driven by widespread changes in pesticide resistance in all crop pests and regulations which are reducing the pesticides available to control biotic threats.
The SCP programme is designed “to address these challenges by bringing the latest technology to bear on improved detection, monitoring, prediction and control of biotic threats. We focus on understanding the mechanisms, genetics, ecology, evolution and management of pesticide resistance, towards the design of pesticides and pesticide resistance management strategies that limit selection for resistance and reduce the off-target impacts of pesticides.
“Next-generation crop protection strategies aim to develop novel interventions, based on, for example, a better understanding of crop-pest interactions. The SCP programme aims to develop crop protection strategies that enable more targeted interventions, using a systems-based approach that integrates chemical, genetic and agroecological approaches.
“The programme has a vision to reduce pesticide use, limit evolution of resistance and to design integrated and evidence based approaches that deliver innovation in crop protection and limit the unintended negative environmental impacts of strategies that secure the long-term productivity of agroecosystems.”
Welcoming the funding, Rothamsted’s chief executive Achim Dobermann told the website: “We are delighted to have received ISCF [Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund] investment for the delivery of research that offers solutions for one of agriculture’s most testing challenges. Globally, 30% of crop yield is lost to pests, pathogens and weeds. Improving the efficiency and sustainability of crop protection is one of the most accessible ways to intensify agriculture sustainably.”
The money has been awarded to Rothamsted through its strategic funder, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which is responsible for distributing a total of £16.6 million (€18.06 million) from the ISCF to “develop new agricultural technologies and industrial bioprocesses to underpin a more successful bioeconomy”.
Besides crop protection, these projects concern industrial biotechnology and agri-food technology and will seek to “de-risk innovative ideas arising from academia and industry for the development of transformative new technologies, processes and practices to advance the production of food, chemicals, materials and energy.”