‘Fight Against Blight’ funding confirmed for 2024 season

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The James Hutton Institute will continue in its role to help protect Britain’s potato crop against late blight after further funding was secured. The new award – sourced from a consortium of key industry partners – will allow the institute to maintain its ongoing monitoring and testing work as part of the Fight Against Blight (FAB) scheme.

The FAB scheme was first launched in 2006, using the monitoring of Phytophthora infestans populations via a nationwide network of agronomists, growers, and industry representatives (the FAB Scouts). This network annually submits up to 1,500 field samples from suspected late blight outbreaks throughout Britain. The work led by Dr David Cooke and Dr Alison Lees from The James Hutton Institute includes both the annual sampling of late blight outbreaks, the characterisation of pathogen populations, as well as fungicide sensitivity testing on active ingredients prioritised by the industry.

Dr David Cooke said: “The continuation of FAB is great news for growers and the sector more widely, and also for the longer-term research effort that supports this area.

“With concerns about resistance to CAA and OSBPI fungicides in new genotypes reported on the continent last year, the early detection of any new arrivals to British crops is going to be crucial to building effective IPM programs for 2024 potato crops.”

Late blight has already been reported in Jersey and in Kent in this year, and the wet winter conditions and unharvested crops have created additional sources and avenues for the disease. Furthermore, the discovery of genotype EU43 (A novel Phytophthora infestans genotype that is threatening potato production due to its resistance to a key fungicide) in Ireland in 2023 has also added concern about potential inoculum sources spreading from the west.

Crucially, it is the testing of these outbreaks which allows for the rapid in-season identification of genotypes. This, in combination with an end of season report, ensures the potato industry is kept well-informed on emerging threats, as well as best-practice for late blight management.

Dr Jonathan Snape, Director of James Hutton Limited, stressed the importance of industry leaders coming together to help in the continued fight against potato blight across the UK.

He said: “Without the essential contributions from this cross-sector consortium it would simply not be possible to continue the nationwide monitoring of emerging genotypes at a time when it is needed most.

“As such, we thank the following organisations for their sponsorship and continued support of Fight Against Blight; Certis Belchim, UPL Ltd, BASF, Bayer, Corteva, Syngenta, Albert Bartlett, Agrovista, Frontier, Hutchinsons, GB Potatoes, McCain, Scottish Agronomy, The Seed Potato Organisation, Agrico, Branston, SAC Consulting and Agrii.”

Registered FAB Scouts will have already received their sampling packs and the FAB website is live at  https://blight.hutton.ac.uk/ where people can access a record of all outbreaks since 2017. If you or your organisation, wish to become a scout or key sponsor, please contact fab@hutton.ac.uk.

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