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Challenges from climate change for disease management in sustainable arable systems. - LK09111

UK arable cropping systems face new or increased threats from diseases as a result of climate change, which will bring milder, wetter winters, hotter, drier summers and more extreme weather events. Recent Defra-funded work has emphasised the importance of arable crop disease control for climate change mitigation (Paveley et al., 2008). This project will assess how effects of climate change on crop and disease interact and will make recommendations on potential threats to UK arable crops. The project will evaluate the change in risk to UK crops of all arable crop diseases currently present in Europe and areas with similar climates to those predicted for the UK. The potential for Cercospora beticola as an emerging threat to sugar beet will be studied by researching the biology of this pathogen, particularly yield loss relationships, and surveying its UK geographic range on sugar beet crops. Since climate change affects both crop growth (timing of operations, flowering, harvest etc) and disease, it is important to integrate crop growth and disease forecast models to assess the impact of future climate change on epidemic severity. As examples, this will be done for wheat fusarium ear blight and oilseed rape phoma stem canker. The need for disease control using fungicides will be assessed in relation to the likely changes in crop development, yield and the need to maintain yields under low nitrogen systems.
This LINK project brings together collective interest in diseases across the sector and aims to inform industry and government policy on effects of climate change on severity of disease epidemics and changes to disease management in arable farming systems. This project is an initial (2 year) stage to underpin this process. The research proposed will integrate expertise at Rothamsted on simulating future climate scenarios, based on UKCIP projections, with application of UK and overseas weather-based crop growth (Jamieson et al., 1998) and disease progress models (Evans et al., 2008; Fitt et al., 2006a; Salam et al., 2007). Long-term datasets of weather and key diseases for a wide range of sites in the UK (e.g. CropMonitor data held at CSL) and relevant overseas published data or trials information available from consortium partners will also be exploited. The partners will use assessments of which diseases might increase or decrease to "future proof" their own R&D and disease management strategies in the context of maintaining sustainable arable systems. This will provide a better understanding of future risks from crop disease for dissemination to and discussion within the sector and with government. It will influence cultivar resistance breeding and guidance on disease management options in response to a potential decrease in the number of approved, effective fungicides in the UK.
There will be benefits to:
• Growers/advisors (optimal integrated disease management strategies will be identified for growers/advisers to deliver cost effective disease control, reduce the environmental impact of arable farming and mitigate climate change through more efficient cropping);
• Breeders & AgChem Industry (disease resistance breeding programmes; fungicide development targets for arable crops). Efficient disease control could result in industry-wide savings of £100M over 20 years, while at the same time maintaining yields under low nitrogen regimes that would reduce the GHG-footprint of arable farming by over 25% (Gregory, 2008).
The overall aim is to assess how effects of climate change on crops and diseases interact in order to make recommendations for control of potential threats to UK arable crops. There are 4 objectives:
(1) To use climate change predictions to assess risk that current or new diseases of major UK arable crops will increase in severity or range.
(2) To perform a detailed evaluation of the impact of Cercospora beticola with respect to sugar beet production and climate change.
(3) To combine weather-based crop growth models and disease forecasting models and test improved forecasts using current and climate change-simulated weather data, for oilseed rape/phoma stem canker and wheat/fusarium ear blight.
(4) To guide strategies for policy development, crop breeding, fungicide development and disease management under predicted climate change.

Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2008

To: 2010

Cost: £274,426
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Bayer CropScience Ltd, Rothamsted Research (BBSRC), British Beet Research Organisation, National Farmers Union, ProCam Group Ltd, KWS UK Ltd, Central Science Laboratory, Home Grown Cereals Authority
Arable Farming              
Climate Change              
Crop Diseases              
Disease Control              
Oilseed Rape              
Wheat Production