HIGH PRIORITY pests and disease threats to UK horticulture are to be targeted by five quick-fire research projects with a total budget of £250,000.

That cash injection is the result of a new joint initiative from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. Researchers are now being invited to submit proposals for five projects, each worth up to £50,000, to tackle priority pests and diseases identified by AHDB through industry-led sector panels, crop associations and risk analysis.

The pilot scheme aims to generate 'outputs' which are directly aligned to industry need, and that could lead to longer-term research programmes and enable access to other funding opportunities. AHDB has committed to share the results of the research through its knowledge exchange programme.

AHDB horticulture scientist Dr Nikki Harrison said: “Horticulture faces significant challenges from new threats, such as the Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus which we saw in the UK for the first time this year.

“This new partnership will secure additional funding for the industry to complement our own research and respond to high priority crop threats. As an industry, we urgently need to develop new crop protection solutions to future-proof UK horticultural crop production, and by developing funding partnerships, we can markedly enhance our crop protection research programme for our growers.”

BBSRC executive director Dr Karen Lewis said: “BBSRC is pleased to be involved in this exciting new partnership with AHDB. We are working together to support the UK’s world-class bioscience researchers in helping to address the challenges of new pest and disease threats faced by the horticultural industry. AHDB’s relationship with growers will ensure that the outputs are shared, and can contribute to the development of future research programmes that are aligned to the crop protection needs of UK growers.”

The research projects will be awarded through a competitive process that includes an open call and will be assessed by an expert panel of horticultural scientists and industry representatives. The duration of the projects will be three to five months. To find out more and to apply, visit https://ahdb.org.uk/research-and-knowledge-exchange-funding-applications or contact Nikki.harrison@ahdb.org.uk