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Developing biocontrol methods and their integration in sustainable pest and disease management in plum and cherry production - HL0189

The overall aim of the proposed project is to develop alternative, sustainable, non-pesticidal methods for managing brown rot, aphid pests and plum fruit moth and light brown apple moth in UK plum and cherry crops incorporating biocontrol approaches. These are the most important crop protection problems in UK stone fruit production and they are controlled currently with pesticides. The non-pesticidal methods developed for the individual pests and diseases will be combined with existing non-chemical methods for other pests and diseases in Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM) programmes which will be tested and refined.

The project will investigate new biocontrol methods with a view to subsequent development by industry, as follows:
> A microbial biocontrol agent or alternative non-pesticidal treatment for brown rot
> Sex pheromone based systems for control of plum fruit moth and light brown apple moth, the latter a new pest in the UK which is highly damaging to cherries
> If possible, a novel biocontrol approach for aphid pests which exploits the vectoring of entomopathogenic fungi by ants.
> An autumn entomopathogenic fungal treatment for aphids
> An sex pheromone attract-and-kill treatment or autumn control approach for damson hop aphid
> An autumn entomopathogenic nematode treatment for plum fruit moth

The IPDM programmes will be more sustainable than current systems which rely on pesticides which are harmful to natural enemies. Natural enemies and biodiversity will be enhanced in the orchard environment.

Higher average temperatures that are the unavoidable result of climate change (temperatures in England have already risen by 1 ¢ªC since the 1970s and are rising at 0.2 ¢ªC per decade (Jenkins et al., 2007)) coupled with substantial and continuing reductions in spring frosts present important opportunities and threats to the UK stone fruit industry:
> Opportunities: Climate change will benefit UK production as both plums and cherries are particularly susceptible to frost injury, the risk of which has already declined substantially due to climate change. The spring frost severity index has declined by > 75% since 1950 at East Malling (Sunley et al., 2006). Furthermore, stone fruit crops are more productive in warmer conditions with lower summer rainfall. Climate change resulting in greater productivity and reliability will support the expected expansion of the UK industry (see below).
> Threats: Several important pest and disease problems will worsen. Plum fruit moth has already become more problematic as a result of increased temperatures and it is expected this will worsen. The pest now often has two complete generations per annum, compared to one formerly. There are several important bacterial, fungal and viral diseases of stone fruit in the UK that will become more prevalent in a warmer climate. Of these, brown rot is the most significant and, based on experience of the disease in the warmer conditions in central and southern Europe, will become more damaging and difficult to control in a warmer wetter climate. Two serious pests of stone fruit, the oriental fruit moth and the cherry fruit fly, do not occur in the UK currently but are serious pests throughout continental Europe. The oriental fruit moth mainly attacks peaches but is also a minor pest of plum, apple and pear. There is an increased danger that they will become established in the UK. The industry needs to take steps to minimise the risk of this eventuality.
The research will enable the UK stone fruit industry to capitalise on these opportunities and counter the threats.

Residue surveillance shows that approximately 60% of UK produced stone fruit contain pesticide residues with multiple residues in 25% of samples. The occurrence of such residues undermines consumer acceptability of the product. The IPDM system will reduce pesticide use in stone fruit (by > 50%) and greatly reduce, hopefully eliminate, the occurrence of pesticide residues on harvested fruit

The aims of this initiative are fully consistent with those of the EU Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides by encouraging pesticide-free crop farming and Defra¡¯s objectives of improving the environmental sustainability of agricultural and horticultural production.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2014

Cost: £357,450
Contractor / Funded Organisations
G H Dean and Co Ltd, DH Bryant and Partners, Natural Resources Institute, KG Growers Ltd, Sainsbury's Supermarket Ltd, United Agriproducts Ltd, University - Warwick, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, M&W Mack Ltd t/a Mack Service, Torry Hill farm, Norman Collett Limited, East Malling Trust for Horticultural Dev, The Summerfruit Company, AgriSense BSC Ltd, University of Kent, F W Mansfield & Son, H L Hutchinson Ltd, East Malling Research, Becker Underwood Ltd, Farm Advisory Services Team, East Malling Ltd