Researchers have been awarded funding to help UK farming transition to net zero and become more sustainable.
Dr Jackie Stroud at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Professor Rumiana Ray at the University of Nottingham will investigate how earthworms can reduce disease risk through effective residue management.
The research project has been awarded £45,000 and is among ten being funded by AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) and BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) to address challenges affecting the sector, as identified by farmers.
They cover technology, regenerative agriculture, soil health, improving livestock farming systems and the development of new resistance mechanisms.
Jackie, a Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Farming Systems at SRUC, is working in partnership with Rumiana Ray, Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Nottingham, to help farmers benefit from the biocontrol services provided by earthworms.
The earthworm species Lumbricus terrestris plays an important role in suppressing fungal plant pathogens. This funding enables us to work with farmers and integrate lab to field biocontrol research to reduce pesticide use
The pathogens in focus here cause severe yield and quality losses and are typically controlled by fungicides during crop development. If we can effectively reduce the availability of infectious residues for disease initiation using earthworm activity, we can develop less input intensive and more sustainable disease management of UK agroecosystems.