Notes from the AAB’s Biocontrol and IPM webinar

Several CHAP staff attended an Association of Applied Biologists virtual conference on 25th February, and here, Lucy Plowman, CHAP’s Technical Liaison Officer at Stockbridge Technology Centre, gives us the highlights.

‘Biocontrol and IPM: Challenges and Opportunities’ examined the progress being made in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Despite large-scale integration on farms across the world, IPM is still limited, due to challenges in translation of research into application.

Prof Keith Walters from CHAP partner Harper Adams University opened the conference before Prof Rosemary Collier, University of Warwick, gave the first presentation on IPM innovation in horticulture. She explored two innovations: crop diversity, for pest host-plant location interference and increased natural enemy abundance, and smart agri-tech, for growers to identify and monitor pest threats and share knowledge across local networks. Both innovations are connected, as agri-tech will be key in overcoming current barriers to polyculture farming as a pest management strategy.

Don Pendergrast, Head of Crop Health and IPM at CHAP partner AHDB, then discussed an industry perspective on the future of IPM. He presented the five-element AHDB strategy to increase IPM uptake, including using metrics to demonstrate the benefits of IPM and stocking the IPM toolbox with prevention, detection and control measures. The strategy represents opportunities to build grower confidence in implementing biological control and to give agro-chemical companies the financial incentive to explore these options. The primary message was the importance in keeping the grower and their agronomist at the forefront of the mind when considering IPM strategies, as they will determine the efficacy and longevity of these strategies through their delivery.

Next, Dr Richard Shaw from CHAP partner CABI introduced the Plantwise programme. This aims to establish a global plant clinic network, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers can find practical plant health advice. The availability of timely and science-based advice will help boost smallholder farm production worldwide, where crop losses currently pose a significant threat to food security. The successes of the Plantwise programme have been revealed through user data: farmers attending clinics are more likely to use sustainable options for pest management and to reduce pesticide application, with more than half of the recommendations adopted by farmers being non-chemical.

The final talk was given by Prof Toby Bruce from Keele University. Toby outlined the vulnerability of modern crops to pests and presented successful examples of research tackling this vulnerability through IPM, including the development of wheat varieties resistant to orange wheat blossom midge alongside deployment of pheromone traps for targeted control. Research is vital in creating innovative solutions that keep pace with the rate of pest resistance and pesticide loss. However, research will also ensure that pest management balances food security with biodiversity and sustainability.

The conference ended with a group discussion centred around the issues that impede effective knowledge transfer from academia to industry, and ways to overcome these. Many ideas were shared, but the common thread throughout was the need for more engagement with end-users via public talks, events bringing researchers and farmers together and on-farm demonstration days to boost farmer confidence in implementing IPM. Ensuring research is relevant by being economically-viable, easy to integrate into current farming systems and aligned to market demand is also critical to end-user acceptance; research should be designed with the farmers and agronomists in mind and should be filtered along the pipeline before reaching industry. Only through effective translation can IPM strategies be delivered from lab to field.

To find out want CHAP is working on in this area, go to Fungal Biopesticide Development Lab and check out our case study.

For more information about the AAB go to aab.org.uk

Click here for more information about CHAP partner Stockbridge Technology Centre.

If you have any questions about working with CHAP, please send us an email using the enquiries form at the bottom of our homepage.