A new research alliance has made £250,000 available for five projects to tackle high-priority pests and diseases threats for horticulture crops.

The new initiative sees the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, and Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) work together to invest in research for horticultural production.

Researchers are now being invited to submit proposals for five projects, each worth up to £50,000, to tackle priority pests and diseases identified by the board through industry-led sector panels, crop associations and risk analysis.

The pilot scheme aims to offer solutions and findings which are directly aligned to industry need. The idea is that these could then lead to longer-term research programmes and enable access to other funding opportunities.

Priority topics identified include: Aphids; bacterial blotch, which affects mushrooms; downy mildew, which affects herbs; fireblight, which affects strawberries; South American tomato moth; and fusarium.

AHDB has committed to share the results of the research through its knowledge exchange programme.

Dr. Nikki Harrison, horticulture senior scientist at AHDB, said: “Horticulture faces significant challenges from new threats, such as the tomato brown rugose fruit virus, which we saw in the UK for the first time this year.

“This new partnership will secure additional funding for the industry to complement our own research and respond to high priority crop threats.

As an industry, we urgently need to develop new crop protection solutions to future-proof UK horticultural crop production, and by developing funding partnerships, we can markedly enhance our crop protection research programme for our growers.

Dr. Karen Lewis, BBSRC executive director, capability and innovation, said: “BBSRC is pleased to be involved in this exciting new partnership with AHDB.

"We are working together to support the UK’s world-class bioscience researchers in helping to address the challenges of new pest and disease threats faced by the horticultural industry.

"AHDB’s relationship with growers will ensure that the outputs are shared, and can contribute to the development of future research programmes that are aligned to the crop protection needs of UK growers.”

The research projects will be awarded through a competitive process that includes an open call and will be assessed by an expert panel of horticultural scientists and industry representatives.

Proposals will address key pests and diseases, shortlisted by the industry, to test approaches and develop strategies to improve understanding, management and control.

The duration of the projects will be three to five months. To find out more and to apply, visit the AHDB website or contact: [email protected].