Novel approaches to pest and disease control in apples and pears

Overcoming the loss of crop protection products in the apple and pear industry

Title: Novel approaches to pest and disease control in apples and pears
Funder: British Apples and Pears Ltd
Term: April 2023 to March 2024
Project leader: Michelle Fountain

The progressive loss of previously used broad spectrum insect pest control products, coupled with a warmer more unpredictable climate is leading to the emergence of both familiar native and less familiar invasive pest species that pose a risk to tree fruit growers. The increased movement of plant material around the world has also promoted the incidence of the latter. At the same time, withdrawal of a range of previously used fungicides and a reduction in permitted applications, is leaving apple orchards more exposed to infection by scab, powdery mildew and apple canker. Indeed, having fewer fungicide options increases the risk of pathogen resistance developing to those remaining. The industry therefore needs to find novel approaches to controlling pests and diseases to replace conventional spraying methods.

The project

In this project, being funded by British Apples and Pears, NIAB scientists at East Malling are working on six work packages to support apple and pear growers with their highest research priorities. Work will focus on identifying new and emerging pests and diseases that might pose a threat to UK apple and pear production. To address apple canker, the research aims to understand the role of soil properties and endophytes (bacteria and fungi which spend at least part of their life within a plant without causing apparent disease) and how they can be harnessed to manage the disease. For apple scab, the work will attempt to reduce overwintering inoculum using microbial treatments. Inoculating trees with earwigs will be investigated to control woolly apple aphid. Precision monitoring, semiochemical and biological manipulation will be investigated to control hard bodied pests, while IPM approaches will be reviewed for future UK codling moth control.