“This is great news for growers and the sector more widely, and it’s also great news for the longer-term research effort that supports this area. Detecting any shifts in the population as early as possible is key to understanding the threat levels, how the blight pathogen is evolving, and the responses required”
02 June 2022, UK: Work by researchers at the James Hutton Institute that helps protect Scotland’s valuable potato crop against late blight is to continue thanks to funding from the Scottish Government for the Fight Against Blight (FAB) campaign in 2022. There had been uncertainty over the future of the project following the end of AHDB Potatoes operations last year.
Professor Gerry Saddler, Head of SASA, and Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government are providing interim support for this important initiative in recognition of the needs of the Scottish potato industry.”
As in previous seasons, the work is based on monitoring of Phytophthora infestans populations bya network of agronomists, growers and industry representatives who submit field samples from suspected late blight outbreaks around the country. The 2022 effort will include the annual sampling of late blight outbreaks by these FAB Scouts and then the characterisation of pathogen populations. In work led by Dr Alison Lees, fungicide sensitivity testing will be carried out once again for a selection of active ingredients.
Feedback will be provided to scouts throughout the season and, in combination with the summary at the end of the season, updates the potato industry on best-practice for late blight management.
Project leader Dr David Cooke of the James Hutton Institute said: “This is great news for growers and the sector more widely, and it’s also great news for the longer-term research effort that supports this area. Detecting any shifts in the population as early as possible is key to understanding the threat levels, how the blight pathogen is evolving, and the responses required.”
For season 2022, previously registered FAB Scouts will automatically receive sampling packs for this continuation work. New scouts wishing to register and submit samples, or any scouts with other queries, should contact email@example.com. A dedicated website will be forthcoming, and scouts will be kept informed of any developments and relevant new information. Any sample packs, prepaid envelopes and FTA cards from previous seasons can still be used.
The situation for late blight risk monitoring and response beyond 2022 is currently under discussion between a range of industry stakeholders to resource ongoing work in this area for 2023 and beyond.