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Government announces £7m research package to tackle tree pests and diseases

THAPBI 25th March-1Environment Minister Lord de Mauley has launched the multi-disciplinary Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative (THAPBI) to support research to better protect woodland from pests and disease. The initiative will generate knowledge to tackle pests and diseases and to support the future health of the UK’s woodlands, commercial forests and urban trees and is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Defra, the Economic and Social Research Council, Forestry Commission, Natural Environment Research Council and the Scottish Government. 

In the last few years, several new pests and diseases have emerged as significant risks to tree health and plant biosecurity. Changes in trade in plants and plant products may also contribute to the risk of new pests and diseases entering the UK. Climate change may also be increasing the risk of these pests and diseases spreading. Seven new research projects will received a share of £7M to help address these threats to UK forests, woods and trees and improve understanding of tree pests and pathogens, and associated plant biosecurity. These are:

Population structure and natural selection in the Chalara ash dieback fungus, Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus – £635,000, led by Professor James Brown, the John Innes Centre

Identifying genomic resources against pests and pathogens in tree genera: a case study in Fraxinus – £760,000, led by Dr Richard Buggs, Queen Mary, University of London

Biological pest control of insect pests that threaten tree health – £900,000, led by Professor Tariq Butt, Swansea University

Promoting resilience of UK tree species to novel pests and pathogens: ecological and evolutionary solutions – £1.4m, led by Dr Stephen Cavers, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Modelling economic impact and strategies to increase resilience against tree disease outbreaks – £900,000, led by Dr Adam Kleczkowski, University of Stirling

New approaches for the early detection of tree health pests and pathogens – £1.9m, led by Dr Rick Mumford, Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera)

Understanding public risk concerns: an investigation into the social perception, interpretation and communication of tree health risks – £615,000, led by Dr Clive Potter, Imperial College London.

Further information on the projects can be found at: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/PreviousAwards/thapbi-funded-projects.pdf

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