A submission for research funding to develop a novel pre-breeding strategy to reduce dependence on insecticides for the control of virus yellows in sugar beet, has been allocated funds.
The project is led by BBRO, with a total cost of1.14m over 5 years, of which 650,000 will be grant funded by the Governments agency Innovate UK; other costs are being funded by BBRO, SESVanderhave and Syngenta.
Dr Mark Stevens (BBRO) together with Dr Glenda Willems (SESVanderhave) and Dr Thomas Kraft (Syngenta) identified the threat posed to the UK sugar beet crop from virus yellows.
The submission was made in collaboration with DrLucy James (ADAS).
Why make this investment on virus yellows?
Virus yellows in sugar beet is a greater problem in the UK than anywhere else in Europe because our maritime climate favours the aphid vector. The UK beet industry invests up to 7m annually on insecticides(seed treatments and foliar sprays) for aphid control, without which virus yellows could cause losses of up to 10million per year.
Recent EU restrictions on neonicotinoid use, as well as the development of insecticide resistance in aphids elsewhere inEurope, threatens to significantly increase the incidence of virus yellows inUK-grown sugar beet which will make the UK crop less competitive in world markets. Consequently, development of sugar beet varieties which are resistant to virus yellows is a critical component of future control strategies.
The project team has identified wild beet that are resistant to the effects of virus yellows and this genetic trait has been crossed into sugar beet. The project aims to develop this resistance further by crossing our resistant lines with modern commercial breeding lines. These new varieties will be tested rigorously for virus yellows resistance, plant vigour and sugar yield. This 5 year pre-breeding project will accelerate production of new sugar beet varieties which are resistant to virus yellows,bringing significant economic and environmental benefits to the UK and the rest of Europe.