Climate driven mismatches in fruit, pest and natural enemy phenology to mitigate crop damage

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Sch of Agriculture Policy and Dev


Climate influences timing of key events including crop flowering, seed set, and harvest, but also the peak abundance and occurrence crop pests and their natural enemies. Changing climate may alter the timing and duration of organisms' life-cycle events, leading to 'phenological mismatches' or prolonged activity cycles that have consequences for sustainable crop production.
This PhD will explore the impacts of climate change on pest control, identified as a key industry need. UK pear orchards provide an ideal model system for this study because;
1. Pears have one, dominant pest (pear sucker -Psylla pyri), which is resistant to most approved insecticides.
2. Damage by pear sucker, caused by sap feeding and honeydew causing sooty mound and premature leaf drop, is a substantial source of economic loss in UK pear production, with yields below other European countries with similar climates.
3. Pear sucker has a small number of key natural enemies (Anthocorid bug - Anthocoris nemoralis, European earwig - Forficula auricularia and ladybirds native 7-spot - Coccinella septempunctata, and invasive Harlequin - Harmonia axyridis).
4. Ample pear orchards are available for the study including preexisting insect count for 18 sites.
NIAB EMR have excellent existing data on pear pests and natural enemies including weekly year-round data for 7 years from 3 orchards, and data collected for 3 years from 15 orchards. They also hold the database for onset and duration of flowering of pear cultivars from1936 onwards. Climate predictions for the UK under a range of future scenarios are available from the Met office's UKCP18 projections.
The aim of this PhD will be to utilize existing data to model tri-trophic interactions, collect field data to validate the models, identify production risks for pear growers under future climate conditions and explore options for reducing and mitigating identified risks.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/V509747/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2024
2106289 Studentship BB/V509747/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2024 Laura Reeves Reeves