Sensor-based pre-symptomatic detection of pests and pathogens for precision scheduling of crop protection products


CP 119 - Sensor-based pre-symptomatic detection of pests and pathogens for precision scheduling of crop protection products

Start Date: 
Completion Date: 
Project Leader: 
Dr Martin McAinsh, Lancaster University
CP 119

Industry representative: Keston Williams

HDC project cost: £67,878 (total project cost: £127,278)


The Problem

Global crop losses due to pests and pathogens are estimated at approx. $2000 billion per year requiring the application of around 3 million tonnes of pesticides globally per year. This studentship will adopt a multidisciplinary approach using advanced biospectroscopy sensor-based technologies previously used extensively in biomedical research applications, Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) and Raman spectroscopy, for the pre-symptomatic diagnosis of pest/pathogen attack in crops allowing early crop interventions thereby reducing crop losses, reducing the use of crop protection products, and reducing the incidence of chemical residues in food. Laboratory-based studies of crops grown under controlled environment conditions will identify ‘biomarkers’ that are indicative of early pre-symptomatic pest/disease attack. These studies will be used to benchmark field-based measurements made during field campaigns at UK farms using affordable portable spectroscopy equipment. The ability of these technologies to predict the impact of reduced application of crop protection products on pre- and post-harvest quality of crops, and on storage and shelf-life, will also be investigated. Field-based measurements will be used to assess the potential for biospectroscopy, and the novel biomarkers identified using this approach, for informing future strategies for protecting and increasing agricultural productivity through the targeted precision scheduling of crop protection products.
Aims and objectives:
Key milestones:
1. Exposure of the student to the full range of commercial activities underpinning the business of one of the UK’s leading producers of premium vegetable products (1-month placement with Barfoots during year 1),
2. Construction of a database of asymptomatic alterations or biomarkers associated with individual crop-pest/pathogen combinations based upon laboratory-based studies undertaken in the Lancaster Environment Centre,
3. Validation of laboratory-derived biomarkers as a diagnostic tool for pre-symptomatic pest/pathogen in the field through field campaigns at Barfoots farms using portable ATR/Raman equipment.
4. Assessment of the suitability of biospectroscopy sensor-based technologies for the targeted, and potentially automated, precision scheduling of crop protection products and for predicting the quality and shelf-life of crops.