The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced a research programme aimed at preventing crop loss from Fusarium Basal Rot (FBR), an infection caused by a soil-borne fungus.

‘FUSED – Integrated fusarium early diagnostic and management’ is a 24-month, £1 million project led by Lincoln-based research and development company, B-hive Innovations.

B-hive Innovations is a ‘Subject Matter Expert’ involved in research in the fresh produce sector.

Supported by Innovate UK, under Defra Farming Innovation Programme, the research aims to define better ways of detecting and managing FBR infection.

Researchers aim to detect FBR at the earliest stages of onion production as FBR disease can attribute up to 40% of crop losses for growers, which costs the onion industry more than £10 million a year.

General manager of B-hive Innovations and FUSED project lead, Dr. Andy Gill said:

“B-hive is delighted to be coordinating efforts to combat FBR infection in onions. The project will bring together many members of the British onion sector who share a common desire to prevent FBR.

“By engaging with the grower base at the beginning of the research process, it will enable us to develop solutions that are fit for purpose, a key mission that drives B-hive’s research projects.”

B-hive FUSED

B-hive will be working alongside research experts including agronomists from Vegetable Consultancy Services (VCS) Agronomy and The Allium and Brassica Centre.

It will also involve academic researchers from the University of Warwick, agri-tech innovation centre CHAP (Crop Health and Protection) and members of the research team at RSK-ADS.

Moulton Bulb, G’s Growers and Stourgarden and Bedfordshire Growers will provide additional support from the onion-growing sector.

As well as overall project management, B-hive will be contributing computer vision expertise to the project in an effort to detect bulbs affected by FBR in the field.

B-hive’s head of machine learning, Dr. Mercedes Torres Torres said:

“Our goal is to detect infected onions during growth and at the earliest possible stages. We will be drawing on our considerable expertise in remote sensing, including use of hyperspectral imaging in agriculture, and are confident that we can find better ways of detecting disease.”

Managing director of B-hive, Vidyanath Gururajan said that the latest project increases sustainability of the British onion sector.

He also said that they are “privileged” that the innovate UK and project partners trust them.