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Range and severity of a plant disease increased by global warming

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15 August 2007

A paper published in the Royal Society journal Interface on 15 August 2007 highlights recent research that predicts that the range and severity of the plant disease phoma stem canker is increased by global warming.

A research team led by Rothamsted Research has used a weather-based model developed to predict the start and severity of epidemics of phoma stem canker, a disease of oilseed rape and other brassicas that causes losses of $900M worldwide, to investigate the consequences of predicted climate change scenarios.

The team of biologists and mathematicians found that warmer winters significantly advanced the date of stem canker appearance in spring and increased the severity of canker before harvest. They also predicted that epidemics will spread north from England to Scotland, where cankers do not currently occur on oilseed rape.

The research was part of programme of work to reduce reliance on use of pesticides in crop protection. "The phoma stem canker forecast model was developed as a tool to help guide fungicide applications timing by farmers and their advisors. We realised we could extend the use of the model by incorporating climate change scenario data to examine how global warming might impact on future epidemics" explained Dr Neal Evans, a Plant Pathologist at Rothamsted Research.

These results provide a stimulus to develop models to predict effects of climate change on other plant diseases, especially in delicately balanced agricultural or natural ecosystems. Such predictions can be used to guide policy and practice in adapting to effects of climate change on food security and wildlife.

ENDS

Notes to editors

Images are available to accompany this release. Please contact Rothamsted Research Press Office.

This paper, Range and severity of a plant disease increased by global warming by Neal Evans, Andreas Baierl, Mikhail Semenov, Peter Gladders and Bruce Fitt is published online in the Royal Society journal Interface (10.1098/rsif.2007.1136) on 15 August 2007.

The research was funded by Defra (PASSWORD and OREGIN projects), HGCA and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

About Rothamsted Research

Rothamsted Research ( http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk) is one of the largest agricultural research institutes in the country, and is sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

External contact

Neal Evans, Rothamsted Research

tel: 01582 763133 ext. 2296

Bruce Fitt, Rothamsted Research

tel: 01582 763133 ext. 2308

Mary-Louise Burnett, Rothamsted Research Press Office

tel: 01582 763133 ext. 2485

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Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382