BBSRC, on behalf also of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Scottish Government, announces a call for research to address threats to UK plant health and biosecurity from bacterial diseases. Proposals are invited for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies of bacterial plant pathogens and their interactions with host plants, invertebrate vectors and the wider environment.
This call is the second phase of a wider programme on bacterial plant diseases supported by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF). It will complement the work of the recently established BRIGIT consortium focused on Xylella fastidiosa by funding studies of a variety of diseases.
There is growing concern about potential and existing threats to UK plant (including tree) health and biosecurity from the wider spread and more common occurrence of both emerging and indigenous bacterial diseases. Contributory factors include environmental change and greater movement of potentially contaminated plants or plant materials in trade. These pathogens (and their invertebrate vectors) threaten crop production, forestry, commercial and amenity horticulture, as well as woodlands and broader biodiversity within the wider environment. They have the potential to cause widespread and severe economic, environmental and social impacts on landscapes and ecosystems, both rural and urban.
Bacterial phytopathogens are diverse and cause many types of diseases. Their transmission may be airborne, soil-borne or via invertebrate vectors. When introduced to new areas their spread is unpredictable, but often highly invasive. They are difficult to control with chemicals and, unlike many other plant pathogens, frequently have a large number of potential hosts.
Concern is reinforced by a relative dearth of research on bacterial phytopathogens, compounded by the availability of limited scientific capability and capacity for responding to the challenges they pose. The pathogens are often difficult to study: infection may be latent and symptomless, while some pathogens are “unculturable” outside their plant hosts.
Defra’s Plant Health Risk Register contains information about many bacterial pathogens, and more pathogens are being added as they become a risk. This call does not focus exclusively on those bacterial diseases included in the register, but applicants may find it a useful source of information.
Project scale and duration
Up to £13 million is available, subject to the quality of proposals received, with the aim of supporting an appropriately broad and balanced portfolio of up to 20 projects. Applications must not exceed £2.5 million (at 100% of their full economic cost). The funders aim to fund a portfolio of projects of mixed sizes and areas of focus. Large-scale multidisciplinary applications are welcomed, but smaller, more targeted projects are not excluded.
Funds can be requested for up to three years, and projects are expected to start by 1 May 2020.
All projects will be funded at 80% of their full economic cost.
Application deadline: 25 July 2019, 4pm
For full information on the programme including eligibility and timescales please visit the BBSRC website.