What is the Asset?

The SMART Decision Support Unit will establish a national surveillance and risk forecasting capability to determine prevailing and impending risks from pathogen and and pests across the UK in real-time using the latest technology in remote detection, predictive modelling and in-field data collection.

Why is there a need?

Currently, uncertainty about the likely progress of epidemics and the effectiveness of treatment leads to over-caution. In order to protect against perceived threats to yield, even in low disease/pest seasons, there is an ever-increasing dependency on pesticides. Rapid feedback on the prevalence and susceptibility of biotic threats during the growing season would reduce uncertainty, thereby guiding treatment decisions, improving economic efficiency and mitigating the risks from pesticide resistance development.

What does it do?

During the set-up phase of this asset, data will be collected from a range of sources to create a robust data platform for use in delivery of a comprehensive pest and disease forecasting capability which can support decision-making in real-time.  New technologies will be introduced to create a network for the future which can deliver automated data capture and analysis to deliver an ongoing, sustainable and responsive service to the industry. Samples, collected from the networks, will be used for analysis and research by other assets within CHAP and these networks are available for use in further collaborative research and additional data collection.

National pest and disease surveillance

Yellow water trap for monitoring of aphids

  • Monitoring of pest and disease development in untreated plots of at least four untreated varieties each of wheat, barley and oilseed rape reported weekly from 30 locations across England
  • Incorporation of the National Crop Pest and Disease Surveys funded by Defra
  • Participatory agronomist networks delivering weekly observations from commercially managed crops including potatoes
  • Potential for extension to other crops using same networks

National weather monitoring network

Met station

  • 30 bespoke met stations deployed at all monitoring sites to collect and report data relevant to understanding and prediction of pest and disease risks
  • Collaboration with the UK Met Office to identify an agriculturally-relevant national UKMO monitoring network to support real-time risk forecasting services for agriculture and horticulture
  • Incorporation of forecast weather (up to 14 days ahead)

Monitoring of pathogen pressure prior to disease symptom development

Prototype automated spore detection device

  • Co-deployment of Burkard spore traps at each of the monitoring locations to collect spore samples for laboratory analysis of spore release and dispersal in relation to weather factors
  • Validation and introduction of automated spore traps which will trap spores, carry out an automated DNA test to measure spore numbers collected and send the data to the platform for generation of improved risk prediction
  • Introduction of in-field diagnostic services to detect latent infection in crops prior to symptoms appearing
  • Potential for in-field detection of pesticide resistance to be incorporated in the future

Modelling platform for pest and disease forecasting

  • Risk models will become available for up to 33 crop/pest/disease combinations of relevance for spray decisions for pest and disease control
  • All models fully validated and level of confidence presented
  • All data flowing into the platform handled via bepoke algorithms to deliver risk forecasts direct to users based on current and forecast weather conditions, crop varietal susceptibility, agronomic factors and inoculum availability
  • Bespoke services will be developed to forecast risk of epidemics of crop pests and diseases at national, regional and local scales

How will it help the industry including farmers and agronomists?

New products and services will be deployed via an extensive upgrade to the existing CropMonitor™ service, a trusted source for the industry which has been providing risk forecasts on wheat diseases to growers since 2003.  National and regional surveillance information will be available as a free service via CropMonitor (early version available now using the link below).

Bespoke local forecasts applicable for supporting pest and disease management decisions in real-time will be available via a subscription service. These will expand over the life of the set-up phase, but will include predictions of risk of spore release, prediction and/or detection of latent infection in crops, prediction of infection risk and identification of spray windows; all delivered in a time-frame to support decision-makers on whether to spray, optimal spray timing, product choice and dose (dependent on level of risk and variety). Thus, the system will deliver support to maintain and increase yields whilst minimising costs of pesticide inputs. Additional research and collaboration involving the platform will enhance both the existing service provision and also extend the breadth of the services to other crops.

Further information here

Contact details

To find out more about our service development or discuss a potential collaboration please contact:

Dr Judith Turner (judith.turner@fera.co.uk); +44 (0)1904 462200