Predicting effects of climate change on severity of crop disease epidemics allowing for adaptive change

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences


Climate change will affect food production and therefore food security. Climate affects crops in many ways. This project will focus on the effect of changes in climate on the prevalence and severity of diseases of crops caused by fungi. Whilst climate change is certain to change severity of crop disease epidemics, the detail of those changes is uncertain because climate, crop and disease models are imperfect. For some diseases, models linking disease progress to weather factors can be combined with crop models and weather generators to provide predictions of the distribution and severity of disease epidemics under future climates, but many factors are as yet unexplored. This 4-year BBSRC Industry PhD project aims to improve predictions of the severity of UK crop disease epidemics, focussing especially on how the pathogens themselves will evolve in response to environmental change. Itwill focus on the main diseases of winter oilseed rape: phoma stem canker and light leaf spot, although the principles revealed in the results will also be applicable to other UK crop diseases. Previous assessments assume the pathogen will not adapt to changing climate, but this assumption has not been tested. Thus, the objectives are: 1) To model how crop pathogens adapt to changing climates (e.g. increasing temperature) and measure parameters of the models; 2) To improve models to predict how climate change will alter severity of crop disease. The project will involve controlled environment and field experimental work at Rothamsted, modelling work at Reading university, and access to ADAS field experiments at locations throughout eastern England. The project will be supervised by a team of scientists at ADAS, Rothamsted and Reading, who have all the necessary expertise and have worked together on many previous occasions. Thus it will provide an excellent all-round training to produce a scientist with a good knowledge of both agriculture, crop protection and climate change modelling. It will produce data to guide policy and science investment, especially in breeding and fungicide use. This will assist strategic planning for adaptation to climate change by the agricultural industry and government.


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