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Egham, United Kingdom

Grant
Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-FP-SICA | Phase: KBBE-2009-1-2-08 | Award Amount: 4.00M | Year: 2010

European forests are under unprecedented threat from the combined forces of climate change and large increases in the numbers of alien invasive pests and pathogens resulting from changes in patterns of global trade. Interactions between climate change, including likely changes in both mean temperatures and precipitation, will have serious impacts on the susceptibility of forest ecosystems to damage by pests and pathogens, and a large number of novel, unprecedented forest health problems are likely to occur in the near future. These problems will lead to reductions in primary production, with consequent losses in yields, biodiversity and other multi-functional roles of forests. Local extinctions of highly susceptible plant species may also result. The ISEFOR project will address these problems through: the identification of key groups of potentially invasive alien organisms, the development of accurate, state-of-the art diagnostic methods to detect and quantify both known and unknown threats, an in depth analysis of the plant nursery trade, the major poorly controlled pathway for distribution of alien pests and pathogens, and through the development of modelling software enabling the prediction of geographical areas at risk of attack by alien invasive pests and pathogens under climate change scenarios. The efficacy of the ISEFOR project will be enhanced through the use of the recently developed large databases of alien pest and pathogen threats, and interfacing with other EU-funded projects dealing with plant health issues. Results will be directed to the national plant protection organisations through targeted workshops.


Grant
Agency: Cordis | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-ITN-ETN | Phase: MSCA-ITN-2014-ETN | Award Amount: 3.29M | Year: 2015

BACKGROUND Secure and sustainable food production in terms of quantity and quality is a major challenge facing human societies. However, food security is continuously threatened by current and invasive pest species. EU regulations for the use of pesticides are getting stricter to ensure food safety and protect ecosystem health. Biocontrol of agricultural pests by using natural enemies has great potential to deal with these two demands. CHALLENGE Controlling novel exotic pests often involves importing non-native natural enemies. Such practices are undesirable as it poses risks to local biodiversity. Optimizing existing and native biocontrol agents can reduce the dependence on imported natural enemies. OBJECTIVE BINGO will advance current knowledge in biocontrol practice through the use of natural genetic variation and by simultaneously training 13 young researchers in an extensive suite of interdisciplinary skills. This will allow them to improve the efficiency of biological pest control through selective breeding of natural enemies in a broad range of agricultural systems and environmental conditions. HOW The research projects will address current bottlenecks in biocontrol, for rearing, monitoring and performance, that include a broad range of scientific disciplines and in which state-of-the-art population genomics will be applied. Industry has a pivotal role by providing the problems for research, training, and by translating the results to capacity building and increased competitiveness. RELEVANCE BINGO will deliver improved biocontrol agents, knowledge on the genetic organisation of traits related to agents performance, genetic markers for monitoring and risk assessment, and guidelines and protocols for genetic improvement of natural enemies. Crucially, BINGO will deliver eager ESRs that have the potential to thrive in professional environments in science, industry and public bodies to ensure that the biocontrol potential is met and implemented.


Grant
Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-FP-SICA | Phase: KBBE.2012.2.3-05 | Award Amount: 3.84M | Year: 2013

Food security is a global challenge. Within the overall increased demand for food, and particularly meat production, there is also an urgent need to increase supply of protein from sustainable sources. The principle objective of the international and multidisciplinary PROteINSECT consortium is to facilitate the exploitation of insects as an alternative protein source for animal and human nutrition. Advances have been made in rearing of insects for incorporation in animal feed in countries including China and Mali. The consortium brings together expertise in these countries together with European insect breeders and feed production companies in order to optimise systems and set up pilot scale production facilities in the EU. The project will demonstrate the feasibility of the use of insect-derived proteins in animal feed through trials with fish, poultry and pigs. Quality and safety along the food chain from insect protein itself, to incorporation in feed and ultimately human consumption of insect-protein reared livestock, will be evaluated. The use of waste streams that focus on animal rather than plant material for insect rearing will be examined. To optimise the economic viability of the use of insect proteins, uses for the residual flows from the production system will be determined. Life cycle analyses will enable the design of optimised and sustainable production systems suitable for adoption in both ICPC and European countries. Key to uptake is ensuring that a regulatory framework is in place and this will be encouraged by the preparation of a White Paper following consultation with key stakeholders, experts and consumers. PROteINSECT will build a pro-insect platform in Europe to encourage adoption of sustainable protein production technologies in order to reduce the reliance of the feed industry on plant/fish derived proteins in the short term, and promote the acceptance of insect protein as a direct component of human food in the longer term.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 256.46K | Year: 2015

In the UK, and much of Europe and the rest of the world, invasive weeds are destroying natural habitats through exclusion of native species, reduction of biodiversity, and removal of ecosystem services. Some invasive weeds even damage the groundwork of buildings, causing structural problems. The costs to the UK economy alone totals almost £2billion per year highlighting them as key targets for control or removal. Efforts to control these weeds is also problematic and expensive, partly due to lack of control measures and partly because of the vigorous nature of the plant spread and deep-rooted establishment of the plants. One of these problem plants is Impatiens glandulifera (Himalayan Balsam), which is now the most commonly occurring non-native plant species on riparian (riverside) systems in England and Wales. The plant severely reduces native plant and insect biodiversity and is expensive and difficult to control, because herbicides cannot be used near water courses. Balsam plants die off in winter, leaving exposed areas susceptible to erosion, while summer populations choke water courses, increasing the likelihood of flooding. DEFRA selected Balsam as target weed for biological control, emphasising the importance of this research. In July 2014, CABI received Ministerial approval to release the rust fungus Puccinia komarovii var. glanduliferae, a pathogen of Himalayan Balsam found in Pakistan and India, at trial sites in the UK. This is the first approved release of a non-native fungal pathogen anywhere in Europe. It therefore provides a unique opportunity to determine the impact of the rust release on the plant and the communities it has invaded. It is important not just to examine what factors affect the efficacy of the rust in the field, but also how native plant communities recover as weed populations decline. This proposal is a joint one involving CABI, Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Reading. Together, we will monitor rust relese, determine the factors that affect its establishment in the field and discover how invaded communities recover after balsam removal. We will conduct this research alongside DEFRA, who have pledged money to monitor rust release. We will carry out a series of experiments to examine the impact of soil-dwelling beneficial fungi (termed arbuscular mycorrhizas) on rust infection. Mycorrhizas provide plants with essential nutrients and some species are known to increase susceptibility to foliar pathogens. We will also examine the foliar tissues of balsam plants, as these also contain fungi (termed endophytes). New research is emerging to suggest that microbes living on plant surfaces and inside plants could have anti-microbial effects on potential invading pathogens. It is critical to determine whether we can manipulate the plants growth conditions to maximise the efficiency of the rust, either through encouraging microbes that help the rust or removing conditions for detrimental microbes. This is a unique opportunity to discover how the native plant, insect and soil microbial communities start to recover after weed removal. Biocontrol is usually about reducing the health or performance of target organisms and to date it has generally been assumed that a native, diverse community will readily establish. However, we know that balsam somehow alters the soil to severely reduce growth of other plants. Thus, a key outcome of the study will be to determine how we can use beneficial microbes to allow native plants to recolonise. A particularly exciting part is that the mycorrhizal fungi which we hope to use to aid rust efficacy also have the potential to help native plants to grow, thus we will be able to develop a unique, double-headed strategy to have a genuine impact on the control of this weed.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 84.18K | Year: 2016

The problem: The black vine weevil (BVW) is causing havoc for UK soft fruit growers, with estimated losses for strawberry and blueberry alone of £10 million per annum. Its larvae overwinter in the soil and cause tremendous damage to plant roots, ultimately killing the plant. The damage is so bad in strawberries that new plants are now planted yearly. With the decline in available chemical pesticides, the range of suitable products for BVW control is becoming a cause for concern. The large pine weevil (PW) is the most serious pest of conifer restoration in the UK and Ireland and is a priority pest of the Forestry Commission. In the absence of control measures some 50% of young trees could be lost across the UK. Figures in 2005 put the potential loss to the British forestry industry at £12 million per year (Torr et al. 2005 Forestry applications, in: Nematodes as biological control agents, CABI Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 281-293). Adult PW overwinter in leaf litter and the upper soil layers and this is the life-stage that a winter-time biopesticide would target. How are we addressing the problem? CABI, a not-for-profit research organisation that promotes sustainable agriculture worldwide, and BAS, a polar research institute that applies its expertise globally wherever it can add value, have found a potential answer to protecting British soft fruits and forests by developing a new biopesticide, based on a fungus sourced from the Antarctic. Previous projects have demonstrated, in the laboratory, that the fungus thrives at British winter temperatures (0-10 C) and has insect-killing activity. CABI and BAS are developing a new product to kill BVW and PW while they overwinter in the soil. Current commercial biopesticides for weevils (the majority of which are nematodes) work poorly at temperatures below 10 C, hence over the winter months when these pests are relatively immobile, and therefore at a perfect time to be hit, there are few suitable means of doing s This project plans to apply the Antarctic fungus to soils in late autumn when soil temperatures start to decline. The fungus will then start to grow as other natural microorganisms will be dormant. It is envisaged that as the fungus grows through the soil it will encounter BVW/PW and kill them. In spring, when native microorganisms exit dormancy, we expect the Antarctic fungus to be outcompeted. In this project soils from around the UK will be collected by AlphaBioControl Ltd, a commercial company promoting the use of sustainable crop protection products. CABI will then examine if the Antarctic fungus can kill BVW and PW in the soils collected. CABI will also determine if the fungus harms earthworms. BAS, who collected the fungus from Antarctica, will carry out ecological studies to determine how the fungus will grow and interact with other microorganisms in UK soils under different temperatures. The outputs of this project will be necessary for obtaining regulatory approval and to provide sufficient evidence to enable the project team, together with a commercial partner such as AlphaBioControl Ltd, to apply for Innovate UK or other industry-led funding for further commercialisation. Benefit to end-users: Biopesticide producers will benefit from the opportunity to bring a new product to market which fills a gap in temperate agri-, horti- and silviculture. Producers of soft fruit will benefit by reduced damage to plants. In particular, strawberry growers may not need to re-plant annually, saving labour and material costs, and here will be benefits from a reduced need for emergency chemical intervention. Forestry will benefit as they will have another option to control PW; indeed possibly the only option by 2020, as the chemical pesticides presently in use are being phased out. Furthermore, forestry will not need to restock as many young trees on a yearly basis, if our product is successful.

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