Integrated pest management (IPM) is an integral component of sustainable crop production. IPM strategies employ multiple tools and techniques to reduce reliance on pesticides. Pressure to reduce fungicide use has increased over the last decade due to the loss of fungicide active ingredients through regulatory processes and the evolution of microbial resistance. Much of the 1,804ha of field beans (Vicia faba) grown in the UK require significant pesticide inputs (Wardlaw et al., 2020) to protect them from the fungal disease chocolate spot (Botrytis cinerea/fabae), which can result in yield losses of up to 59 % (Davidson et al., 2007). Additionally, Botrytis species can quickly evolve and overcome new fungicides, therefore alternatives to fungicides, such as plant defence elicitors and microbial biocontrol agents, will likely have an increasingly significant role in the future. Recent work conducted by SRUC has indicated that plant defence elicitors (i.e., compounds that can induce host defence responses) can be used in isolation and in conjunction with reduced doses of synthetic fungicides to effectively manage crop diseases. Microbial biocontrol agents use an array of mechanisms to control crop diseases e.g., induction of disease resistance, antibiosis, mycoparasitism and competition with plant pathogens. In the UK, commercially available microbial biocontrol agents include the bacteria, Bacillus subtilis (marketed as Serenade) to manage diseases including Botrytis cinerea, and the fungus Coniothyrium minitans (marketed as Contans WG) for managing Sclerotinia diseases of high value crops such as carrots.
This project will investigate the potential role of elicitors and microbial biocontrol agents in an IPM programme to manage chocolate spot. Evidence gathered will ultimately allow growers to make better informed pest management decisions. Using a range of novel and commercially available microbial biocontrol and elicitor products, this project will identify the mechanism by which control is achieved by identifying activated defence pathways and changes in gene expression. IPM field trials will be conducted at sites across Scotland and Ireland to investigate management of chocolate spot under different growing conditions. Results from field trials, glasshouse studies, and laboratory work will provide a greater understanding of the mechanisms that are responsible for control with the potential for microbial biocontrol and elicitor products to become integrated into a robust management programme.
The project will be supervised by: Dr Henry Creissen, Dr Helen Rees and Prof Gary Loake.
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