Cultivation/Production, Europe, UK, Ireland, Pests and Diseases, Smart Farming, Weather/Climate

‘War on blight’: FAB project funded again to continue monitoring potato blight in the UK

The James Hutton Institute has secured funding from a consortium of partners to continue its “Fight Against Blight” (FAB) project.

The FAB project helps protect valuable potato crops by alerting growers across the UK to late blight outbreaks via a website populated by “FAB Scouts” – a network of agronomists, growers and industry representatives who submit field samples from suspected late blight outbreaks around the country.

Fungicide sensitivity testing

Blight has already been reported in parts of England due to the cool damp weather experienced in May, but with conditions looking set for a drier spell, the risks are expected to decline over the coming week.

The 2023 program will include both the annual sampling of late blight outbreaks, and the characterisation of pathogen populations. In work led by Dr Alison Lees, fungicide sensitivity testing will be carried out once again for active ingredients prioritised by the industry.

Pathogen DNA captured on FTA cards will allow rapid in-season feedback on genotypes to scouts throughout the season which, in combination with an end of season report, will ensure the potato industry is kept informed on the best-practice for late blight management.

Project leader Dr David Cooke of the James Hutton Institute 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 fungicides related to the new genotype EU_43_A1 on the continent last year, the early detection of any new arrivals to GB crops is going to be crucial to building effective IPM programs for 2023 potato crops.”

BlightSpy relaunched

In another key development, BlightSpy has relaunched at Hutton. The BlightSpy webpage provides crucial data on current and forecast weather conditions that are conducive to late blight.  The system maps local blight risk based on Hutton criteria, up to eight days in advance.

This clear interface complements the FAB monitoring tool, and supports decision making for effective blight management. It can be accessed at https://blightspy.huttonltd.com/#/forecast

Jonathan Snape, Head of James Hutton Limited said: “We thank the industry sponsors for their support in recognising the value of this initiative that informs the UK potato industry on late blight management.”

Previously registered FAB Scouts will automatically receive sampling packs and registration instructions, while new scouts wishing to register and submit samples, or any scouts with other queries, should contact fab@hutton.ac.uk 

The dedicated website https://blight.hutton.ac.uk/ is available and all outbreaks to date have been uploaded. Any sample packs, prepaid envelopes and FTA cards from previous seasons can still be used.

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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