Technology Strategy Board research: What’s the money has been spent on?

The Technology Strategy Board has awarded £13.5m of funding for research into new approaches for crop protection. Mike Abram and James Andrews take a look at where some of the money has gone

Combinable crops

What? Automated weed mapping

Who? Masstock Arable and four partners

Aims? To develop a GPS-linked computer controlled digital camera system mounted on farm machinery to map and geo-reference key weeds, such as blackgrass. The project will aim to be able to identify reliably weeds present and estimate their densities. The ultimate goal is to reduce the cost of weed control, lower herbicide inputs through use of precision farming and allow early detection of herbicide resistance.

What? Oilseed rape disease early warning system

Who? Syngenta and seven partners

Aims? To create an early warning system for fungal infections using a network of biosensors in crops to detect when spores are present or conditions correct for initial infection. The sensors will send a signal back to base to help time sprays more effectively, and potentially reduce spray numbers. Sclerotinia is the first target disease, but biosensors for other crops could be developed.

What? Molecular improvement of disease resistance in barley

Who? Limagrain and three partners

Aims? To develop barley varieties for the UK with increased genetic disease resistance and reduced reliance on pesticide inputs. Molecular marker breeding technology will be used to give rapid results and by the end of the fifth year, new varieties developed using the technology will be in advanced trials.

What? Inducing broad-spectrum disease resistance in wheat


Inducing broad-spectram disease resistance in wheat is one of the aims of a TSB funded project.

Who? RAGT Seeds and one partner

Aims? To breed wheat varieties with broad-spectrum tolerance to fungal pathogens and improved nutrient use efficiency. The hope is that resulting varieties will be less dependent on pesticides and chemical inputs to achieve optimum yields. Modern plant breeding techniques, and mass spectrometry technology will be used to produce the varieties, which will be entered into commercial field trials.

What? Investigating the effect of fusarium on spring malting barley

Who? Velcourt and seven partners

Aims? Recent research has suggested that poor germination of spring malting barley is linked to infection with Fusarium culmorum. The project will investigate what effect fusarium has on germination, and malting quality, and to come up with effective disease control strategies.

What? Investigating how to control soil borne pathogens in oilseed rape

Who? Velcourt and five partners

Aims? Two soil-borne pathogens, olpidium and pyrenocheta, have been found to occur more commonly in soils that are growing short rotations of oilseed rape. This project will aim to map how widespread they are, investigate whether there is any varietal tolerance that could be exploited by breeders, and other methods of control.


What? Researching free living nematodes and transmission of tobacco rattle virus

Who? Cygnet potato breeders and 11 partners

Aims? A molecular diagnostic capable of distinguishing between the three main groups of free-living nematode will be developed. Field trials will directly assess FLN feeding damage on key commercial potato varieties and study effects on quality, transmission of virus and evaluate new control strategies. In parallel, molecular markers will be developed to facilitate the breeding of new potato varieties with resistance to TRV.

What? Breeding potato varieties with durable late blight and nematode resistance

Who? BioPotatoes and four partners

Aims? To breed potato varieties with durable late blight and nematode resistance and reduce the quantity of pesticides required. It will look at resistance to late blight and potato cyst nematodes. The project will use GM technologies to insert genes that offer resistance to late blight and potato cyst nematode into popular varieties.

What? Novel nematicides based on plant oil formulations

Who? Barrier Biotech and two partners

Aims? To determine the efficacy of plant oil formulations at controlling nematodes in potatoes. The hope is that the project will produce a viable and effective biopesticide for controlling nematode species in potatoes. Only natural, plant derived and non-toxic active ingredients will be used and all will be harvested from sustainable resources.

What? Biological control for potato cyst nematode

Who? Greenvale AP and one partner

Aims? To bring a biological control for potato cyst nematode to market with no toxicity to non-target organisms, zero crop residues, and no risk to operators, the environment or bystanders. Funding will be used to improve the product, which is currently being developed, and make it commercially available.

 Onions - Rex
 Researchers hope they can reduce reliance on pesticides in onions using biological seed treatments.

What? Biological seed treatment technologies

Who? Elsoms Seeds and three partners

Aims? To develop biological controls for seed-borne vegetable diseases. Neck rot in onions and canker in parsnip will be main targets. Formulations of biological control agents using various seed treatment techniques will be investigated in the laboratory and in-field. Successful BCAs will have a lower environmental impact than chemical treatments.

What? Development of integrated strategies to control cabbage root fly on radish

Who? G’s marketing and three partners

Aims? To develop an effective cultural control measure for root flies on radishes as pesticides are largely ineffective. Radish will be grown under mesh in trials to assess whether this will prevent the pests attacking and whether crop growth will be affected.

What? Identifying faba bean genetic material with natural nematode resistance

Who? Wherry & Sons and two partners

Aims? To identify genes with natural resistance to bean nematode resistance, which can be used to breed varieties with inherent resistance to the pest. At present there are very few varieties with natural resistance and it will be one of the first attempts at using genetic mapping to identify natural resistance in faba beans.

What? A forecasting system for bean seed beetle Bruchus rufimanus

Who? PGRO and four partners

Aims? The project will develop a novel, integrated pest management strategy for the bean seed beetle Bruchus rufimanus. A monitoring system will be developed over the four-year project to include a web-based decision support tool for use by faba bean growers in the UK.

Soft Fruit

What? Breeding soft fruits with physical resistance to pests and pathogens

Who? Mylenefield Research Services and eight partners

Aims? To examine plant-derived resistance to pests and diseases of soft fruit crops. These will also be used as part of an integrated pest and disease management plan for soft fruit crops to reduce reliance on chemicals and continue producing high quality fruit.

Using raspberry as a model, key genes controlling variation in particular traits will be selected across different fruits and used to reduce the timescale for variety development.

What? Development of molecular markers for resistance to strawberry powdery mildew

Who? Driscoll’s Genetics and two partners

Aims? To breed strawberry varieties with durable genetic resistance to powdery mildew. An existing variety with robust resistance natural will be used to develop markers for disease resistance genes which can be transferred to new varieties. At the end of the four-year project it is hoped there will be sufficient genetic material to be entered into trials and commercial varieties could be available two to three years later.

TSB funding: £410,000

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