DCF funds Studentship to tackle Agapanthus pest

The David Colegrave Foundation (DCF) is proud to be funding a studentship for undergraduates, as part of the Royal Society of Biology's (RSB) Plant Health Undergraduate Summer Studentship Programme for 2019.

Student, Kobus Stander, who won a £2,000 South West Growers Show (SWGS) Sponsored Scholarship - image: David Colegrave Foundation

DCF worked with RBS to select one of nine projects put forward by plant scientists that address major plant health challenges identified by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Plant Health Undergraduate Studentship project funded by DCF is The Life cycle and biology of an emergent pest, the agapanthus gall midge, hosted by RHS, Wisley and supervised by Dr. Hayley Jones.

The agapanthus gall midge, Enigmadiplosis agapanthi, causes damage to the popular ornamental plant Agapanthus. The midge larvae form galls in the flower buds, deforming them and stopping their flowering. It was first discovered in the UK in 2014, and at that time was new to science.

It was subsequently added to the UK Plant Health Risk Register. This pest is a major concern to Agapanthus growers, both in industry and home gardens, but its novelty means there is a real lack of information about its biology and life cycle.

Working with the scientists that first intercepted the pest, this project will use field observations and laboratory rearing to answer questions about the midge including:

  • How deep underground do the midge larvae pupate?
  • Is pupation time affected by temperature?
  • Where and when does the female lay eggs on the plant?
  • How long do eggs take to hatch and the larvae take to travel into the flower buds?

This project will gather essential life cycle information. The knowledge gained will inform the development and targeting of control options, with the aim of improving the economic stability of Agapanthus breeders and nurseries, and empowering gardeners to protect their garden plants from this pest.

Supervisor, Dr. Hayley Jones comments: "This project will really contribute to our knowledge base on the agapanthus gall midge, and provide essential information to help further research on ways to control the midge. The successful applicant can look forward to learning lots of skills including insect rearing, insect morphology and project management and they will get a real feel for scientific research as a potential career. The student will come to an inspiring place – the beautiful RHS Garden Wisley is the location, alongside the plant health team and using our gardens and field research facility as part of the project."

Students can now apply to work on this project for 8-10 weeks this summer. Successful students will receive £250 per week.

Closing date for applications is 8th May 2019.

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