Study uses strawberries to determine impact of climate change on diseases

Around 300 strawberry growers are being asked to help with a study to assess the likely impact of climate change on diseases.

The three-year project is being funded by Defra and the Food & Environment Research Agency (formerly the Central Science Laboratory) and run by the University of Warwick's Professor Peter Mills.

Mills said: "Over the past 50 years, most strawberry pathology work has been focused on the crop, but the impact of disease goes further. We will examine its effect on the supply chain and rural economy.

"We chose strawberries because it's a very progressive industry," he added. "Growers have done well in changing the way the crop is produced and extending its season."

Initially, the project will investigate strawberry disease outbreaks over the past 90 years to see how their incidence and prevalence have been affected by geographical area and weather conditions.

The diseases concerned include Botrytis, Phytophthora, Colletotrichum and Verticillium wilt.

"We hope to find whether climate change will affect the prevalence of certain diseases and determine the need for different control measures and disease resistant varieties," said Mills.

The growers concerned have been sent a questionnaire by the HDC that discusses the perceived threats and opportunities presented by climate change.

Mills estimated that the questionnaire will take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

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