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Harper Adams addresses MPs’ concern over UK’s lack of plant scientists

Posted 3 April 2014

Harper Adams University has shown a commitment to addressing the skills gap in plant pathology highlighted by a House of Commons Select Committee, by establishing a new postgraduate degree course in the subject.

The course positions Harper Adams as the UK’s only provider of a dedicated masters-level programme in plant pathology, recognising the need for more plant scientists to prevent disease outbreaks.

Despite food production tripling in the past 40 years, around 30% of all available food is wasted during production, processing and distribution. Crop losses through plant diseases are an important component of these losses.

Professor of Plant Pathology, Professor Simon Edwards, said: “There is a shortage of expertise in this important topic, which is a key element in the effort to ensure global food security and mitigating the effects of climate change.

“By completing the course, students will develop a range of abilities that will prepare them for an interesting and fulfilling career in an area with many opportunities.”

Career options include roles with organisations such as agricultural, horticultural and forestry research institutions, universities, commercial organisations within the agrochemical sector and advisory and consultancy roles in the private sector.

A recent report by MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee acknowledged the need for such courses. It calls on government to increase the number of university courses and research posts available in the field of plant health in order to secure new entrants.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Mills, added: “This report identifies the lack of plant scientists available to conduct vital research, but here at Harper Adams, we are committed to addressing these skills gaps.

“We are establishing a strong team of researchers in not only plant pathology, but also key areas such as entomology, nematology and weed science which together form the Harper Adams Centre for Integrated Pest Management.

“The Centre was launched last year in Brussels, bringing together researchers from across Europe to discuss the possibility of new collaborations ahead of EU funding programme, Horizon 2020.”

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