PGRO funds research into pea crop yield losses from soil borne disease

PGRO (Processors and Growers Research Organisation) are funding a PhD project at the University of Nottingham to investigate Aphanomyces euteiches, a plant pathogen responsible for yield loss in peas, as part of PGRO’s continuing commitment to promoting research into the pulse crop.

“The project will be based at the University of Nottingham’s School of Biosciences with the objective of providing better understanding of how the frequency of pea cropping influences the levels of the pathogen in the soil,” explains Roger Vickers, PGRO Chief Executive.

“In recent years Aphanomyces euteiches has been increasingly isolated from unhealthy – and also apparently healthy – pea roots in the UK. It is a soil dwelling oomycete plant pathogen with a wide host range, and peas are very susceptible. It is responsible for the disease Aphanomyces root rot with symptoms that generally include reduced root volume and function, leading to stunting and chlorotic foliage.

“It is believed that infection can go unnoticed in the crop with the potential to cause yield decline. The pathogen builds up in the crop until obvious symptoms are seen and dramatic crop loss occurs. Indeed, in certain areas it threatens the very viability of the crop – especially in vining peas.

“A positive outcome to the project could ultimately lead to practical adoption of techniques and cropping technologies that could secure the rotation and crop viability. Also one hoped-for benefit of the project is the development of a rapid test for a quantified assessment of the levels of soil borne inoculum. This will significantly influence the management of and potential yield loss risk to a pea crop on any defined field.

“The PhD student will have the opportunity to work within a crop sector which is very dynamic and with growers who are keen to implement the results of the study. They will also be one of a very small number of researchers working on this problem with the excitement and challenges that this brings,” Mr Vickers.

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