Potato pest research to be shared at international conference

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Potato pest research to be shared at international conference

Posted 4 September 2015

Victoria, Katarzyna, Dr Back and Bill

Victoria, Katarzyna, Dr Back and Bill

Researchers at Harper Adams University are to share the latest findings of their studies into effectively managing a common potato pest at an international conference next week.

As well as hosting the 4th Symposium of Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) Management on behalf of the Association of Applied Biologists (AAB), the university will also be presenting initial results from several research projects, and conducting live in-field demonstrations.

Senior Lecturer in Plant Pathology and Nematology at Harper Adams, Dr Matthew Back, is co-coordinating the conference with Dr Ivan Grove. Dr Back said: “We are delighted to be hosting the PCN Symposium, where we are encouraging researchers, farmers and agronomists from a variety of backgrounds to come and learn more about potato pests.

“This event is uniting people from the UK, Europe and America through a series of lectures and live demonstrations of management techniques. But what is really exciting for Harper Adams, is the chance for our own researchers and lecturers to present the findings of their work into managing this globally prevalent pest.”

Principal Lecturer in Agronomy and Nematology, Dr Grove, said: “For the first time, this event is to include other nematode pests of potatoes. This is because we believe that a greater awareness of the diversity and threats from other nematodes needs to be encouraged in agronomists and researchers alike.”

Among those presenting their work is postgraduate research student, Bill Watts, who first joined Harper Adams eight years ago as an undergraduate student.

Bill said: “PCN are microscopic worms that live in the soil for up to 20 years and can cause major economic yield losses for potato growers.

“Current management strategies cannot eradicate them completely, so at the conference, I will be sharing my work into alternative control method, biofumigation. This method uses the volatile gasses produced by brassica residues when they are chopped up and incorporated into the soil.

“My research investigates how we can use agricultural implements to optimise the effectiveness of biofumigation to improve further on the 40-60% success rate of the technique.”

Also sharing her research at the symposium is part-time postgraduate research student, Victoria Taylor, who combines her studies with a full-time role at Arcis Biotechnology.

Victoria said: “Nematicides are a specific type of pesticide that limit the effect of nematodes. Due to EU regulations, their use is restricted and there has been little research into new types of chemical nematicides.

“My work looks at developing a new product to assist in the control of PCN, as well as conduct mortality studies to see how it interacts with the nematodes throughout their lifecycle. The ultimate aim is to take techniques from other industries such as molecular biology and microbiology, and apply them to nematology.”

Finally, postgraduate research student, Katarzyna Dybal-Lima, will be talking about her research to characterise PCN through a three-part study.

Katarzyna, a former Rothamsted Research student, said: “I will be presenting the part of my work that looks at viability – so how we test whether the PCN eggs are alive in the soil or not.

“I have been investigating various test methods, and I will be sharing with delegates the effectiveness of those methods and which one is most suitable for use with PCN.”

The symposium is taking place September 7-8, hosted by Harper Adams in Shropshire. The University is also home to the Centre for Integrated Pest Management, which includes the International Biofumigation Network – a group that encourages collaboration between those working in biofumigation.

For more information about the Symposium, click here.

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