Understanding and mitigating against the causes of yield decline in pea

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: School of Life Sciences


Pea is an important legume grown for human and animal consumption. Both vining and combining peas are grown in Europe, for fresh vegetable/frozen (vining) and the dried pulse crop (combining) markets. The intensive use of fields for UK vining pea production has led to yield declines of up to 40% which is mainly attributed to the build-up of a complex of soilborne plant pathogens causing foot-rot. These include Fusarium oxysporum, Fusarium, Aphanomyces and Didymella species. However, the abundance, dynamics and interaction of these species is poorly understood. Moreover, it is also difficult to identify and quantify these pathogens to predict yield decline and other than long rotations there are no strategies for mitigation. One potential approach however is to use green manure/biofumigant crops in the rotation, which when incorporated into the soil, may improve soil health and reduce the impact of soilborne diseases. The main aims of the project are to: 1) understand the components and dynamics of the foot-rot complex as well as associated microbiota in the pea rhizosphere using metagenomics approaches, 2) develop/refine DNA-based molecular diagnostics for key foot rot pathogens in order to study and quantify their interactions on peas and 3) identify green manure / biofumigant crops that can suppress foot-rot. The project builds on an existing collaboration between Warwick and the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) and directly addresses the BBSRC priority area of agriculture and food security, specifically to 'increase the efficiency and sustainability of crop and animal production, reduce waste in the food chain'. Results of the research will potentially have a considerable impact on the sustainability of the UK pea industry.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1898612 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 02/10/2017 30/09/2021 Lisa Marie King
Description As a result of the work funded through this award so far, we have identified critical concentrations of spores for the key pea foot rot disease complex pathogens Fusarium oxysporum, Fusarium solani f. sp. pisi and Didymella pinodella for causing disease symptoms and plant mortality in young pea plants in an artificial system. This is to establish sub-lethal of inoculum for future interaction studies where the effect of combinations of different pathogens will be evaluated. Alongside this, a number of specific brassica crop varieties (known as biofumigants) which produce compounds that can control certain soil-borne diseases and pests have been identified that can restrict the growth of the three aforementioned pea foot rot pathogens, as well as a fourth, Aphanomyces euteiches in agar plate tests.
Exploitation Route If interactions and the dynamics of pea foot rot complex pathogens can be elucidated, a targeted and better-timed approach to control could be eventually developed for growers. If biofumigant varieties can be identified that can control pea foot rot complex pathogens in more applied systems, this is something that could be recommended to seed companies and/or growers as a control option.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description This project will potentially identify how different pea foot rot pathogens interact, which will help inform and target control strategies as well as identify biofumigant plants which could offer more sustainable long-term control of foot rot disease. The progress towards these impacts will be reported as they emerge.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Description Undergraduate Open Day (School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Multiple open days held at the School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, mostly attended by individuals in further education looking to undertake a BSc. A stall was set up by the research group to demonstrate and explain the plant pathogens and diseases that we research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018