UK farmers and growers identify crop pests and diseases as a priority for innovation and a significant threat to production. Worldwide, it is estimated that 20% to 40% of crop yield is lost to pests and diseases.
UK agriculture faces increasing pressure from pests and diseases, due to a combination of:
- new non-indigenous threats
- emerging resistance to chemical controls
- pressures on the availability of plant protection products.
Innovation-driven research is needed for novel controls of crop pests and diseases to improve the resilience of agriculture and horticulture while reducing environmental impacts and supporting biodiversity.
BBSRC’s strategic framework for sustainable agriculture identifies research and innovation in crop pests and diseases as a priority for investment.
More recently, the ten-year roadmap for UK plant science, published in March 2021, identified the sustainable protection of plant health as one of the four ‘big research questions’ for the UK.
You are invited to propose projects to test approaches and develop strategies to improve the understanding, management and control of crop pests and diseases that present a significant threat to crop production in the UK.
Proposals should bring together businesses to partner with academic researchers for discovery research and innovation activities addressing crop pests and diseases of direct relevance to farmers and growers.
Applications will be assessed for scientific quality and relevance to industry.
You are encouraged to read the strategic guidance for applicants in the ‘additional info’ section below. It has been developed in consultation with farmers and growers to list crop pests and diseases that present a significant threat to crop production in the UK. Applications targeting these species are likely to be highly relevant to industry.
This list of challenge areas is not comprehensive, nor should they be siloed. The scope is solutions-focused. Research and translation activities that cut across the challenge areas are encouraged.
You should explore at least one of the following challenge areas:
- fundamental study of the biology of pests and diseases. This includes:
- studies of host-pest interactions
- population biology and epidemiology
- diversity and abundance studies
- mechanisms of infection and dispersal
- prevention and biosecurity. This involves studies and approaches to prevent pest incidence and proliferation, including, but not limited to:
- genetics of crop and host tolerance and resistance
- novel cultural and rotational approaches
- habitat and environmental management to maximise the presence of natural enemies
- approaches to limit the introduction and spread of pests and diseases
- detection and forecasting. This relates to studies that develop new approaches and applications for detection, monitoring and forecasting of crop pests, including, but not limited to real-time and remote sensing, development of novel sensors and molecular diagnostics, and the integration of these new tools into forecasting and decision-support applications
- novel control. This is the development of new approaches that provide new control solutions for crop pests, including chemical, biological and genetic interventions
- development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches. This involves the development of proof-of-concept for novel IPM approaches that combine prevention, detection and control to deliver truly integrated solutions, including approaches that integrate pest and disease control and modelling and simulation of IPM systems.
You may investigate weeds as part of the pest and disease complex, for example, where controlling the weed is an effective route to controlling the target pest as part of an IPM approach.
You are encouraged to consider how the outputs of your application may generate preliminary findings that underpin high quality proposals to UKRI and other funding opportunities for collaborative research and innovation, or to de-risk direct industry investment and commercialisation.
- new collaborations and partnerships, including across disciplines and sectors
- the involvement of private sector partners
- partnerships with international research groups, where they add value to the project through access to key facilities or in-kind contributions.
Business partners will be crucial collaborators in the grant proposals. Businesses must be UK-based or have UK-based research activity. They may encompass a wide range of stakeholders, including:
- farmers and growers
- data management service providers.
Businesses cannot be funded through this opportunity. A 50% contribution will be required from business partners, either individually or as a consortium, for each award. This contribution must include at least 10% as a cash contribution, in which case the remaining 40% could be made as in-kind contributions.
Funding will only be provided to UK eligible organisations, but international researchers can be named as project partners.
Partners and subcontractors
Collaborators are eligible to act as either project partners or subcontractors.
A ‘project partner’ is a third-party person who is not employed on the grant, or a third-party organisation, who provides specific contributions either in cash or in-kind, to the project.
A ‘sub-contractor’ is a third-party individual not employed as staff on the grant, or a third-party organisation, who is subcontracted by the host organisation to deliver a specific piece of work.
Collaborators can be ’dual role’ and may act as a project partner on parts of a project and a sub-contractor on others, but this must be fully justified.
Your proposed research can be three to six months in duration and should not exceed £50,000 (80% full economic cost).
We expect projects to commence between 1 January 2023 and 1 October 2023. Projects must end before 31 December 2023.
You should select a specific start date for the project that will be most suitable for the crop pest or disease that the project will target.
The total budget available for this funding opportunity is £2 million and the funders anticipate funding approximately forty projects.
Cash and in-kind contribution
Contributions from business partners must be at least 50% of the total value of the award. These contributions may be in the form of both cash and in-kind contributions.
The minimum cash contribution is 10% of the total value of the award, in which case the in-kind contribution would be at least 40% of the total value of the award. As an example, for a typical grant of £50,000, the contributions could be £5,000 in cash and £20,000 in-kind.
Contributions from business partners can exceed these requirements.
BBSRC is happy to discuss contribution details prior to submission.
You are expected to work within the UKRI framework for responsible innovation.
You should consider and implement plans for responsible innovation throughout the research project, and include details of these plans in the application, including specific actions that will be taken.
If you plan to include international collaborators in your proposal you should view our trusted research guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.
Equality, diversity and inclusion
BBSRC recognises that excellence in science requires diversity and equality to promote innovation and creativity. To do so effectively, all available talent must be harnessed. We expect equality and diversity to be an integral part, at all levels of research practices as a part of our funding portfolio.
We want to ensure that equality principles are applied to all funding activities, and consider that no one should be excluded or hindered from a career in science because of their protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010, including:
- civil partnership or marriage
- ethnic background
- pregnancy or maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation.
We are committed to supporting the research community, offering a range of flexible options which allow you to design a package that fits your research goals, career and personal circumstances. Therefore, these aspects should be strongly ingrained into the projects proposed for this opportunity.
One common approach is to reference institutional strategies and policies related to equality, diversity and inclusion and indicate that the prosperity partnership would be delivered in alignment with these activities.
Learn more about our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy.