Knowledge for a sustainable world

David Hall and his team at NRI are part of a consortium that is among the winners of funding in the recent competition for New Approaches to Crop Protection run by the UK Technology Strategy Board. The consortium is lead by Berry Gardens Growers Ltd. with Eden Research PLC, BerryWorld, Sainsbury's, Tozer Seeds Ltd (Plant Solutions), K&S Fumigation Services Ltd and CPM (Retail) Ltd as industrial partners and East Malling Research as the other science partner. The project was one of only 32 selected for funding from several hundred initial applications and was praised for including partners from the whole chain between scientists, growers, marketing bodies and the consumer.

The project aims to develop new approaches to sustainable control of soil-borne pathogens which were previously controlled by fumigating with methyl bromide. This is an ozone depleter and is now banned from use under the Montreal protocol. In previous work carried out under a Defra Horticultural LINK project a number of plant-based materials were studied for their biofumigation effects on soil-borne pests and diseases, particularly Verticillium wilt which is a major problem for growers of strawberries and other soft fruit in the UK. Some brassica plants and a seed meal derived from them showed good results, but the most effective was lavender and the chemicals responsible for the activity were identified.

The new project will aim to develop products for use by growers based on these results. These will include slow-release formulations of the biocidal compounds in lavender, formulations of the waste material left after distillation of lavender oil and a brassica seed meal product. These will be evaluated in the laboratory and at several field sites for their efficacy against Verticillium wilt in strawberry, as well as their effects on other pests and diseases.