New approaches for the early detection of tree health pests and pathogens

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: School of Geography and Geosciences

Abstract

The UK's forests, woods and trees are under threat from a growing number of pests and diseases. Many of these threats are alien; historically not present in the UK and having been introduced from overseas. Some of these threats may reach the UK naturally i.e. as wind-borne spores from continental Europe; potentially one pathway for introduction of the disease ash die-back. The alternative and probably more common pathway of introduction is via human activity, especially trade; for example moving infected plants (another pathway identified for ash die-back) or through the shipping of goods associated with infested timber (as was the case with the recent introduction of the Asian long-horn beetle into Kent in packaging crates for stone). These cases clearly demonstrate that we need to do more to improve our nation's biosecurity and protect our plants and trees; both cultivated and in the wider environment.
In order to do this we need better methods for detecting these pests and diseases that allow us to find them earlier and with greater efficiency. By detecting these threats earlier you can minimize the damage they cause, by either preventing an outbreak occurring in the first place or by finding it early and then stopping it from establishing and spreading further. At present we rely on trained inspectors to find these alien pests and pathogens, mainly via visual inspections of imported plants and plant-based products e.g. timber. However, given the volume of inspections required, the finite amount of resource available and the huge practical challenges associated with these inspections, this task is extremely difficult and the efficiency of detection is low.
This project is designed to change that situation by providing better methods for detecting tree pests and pathogens; both moving in trade and in the environment. It will look at new technologies for the detecting changes in infected plants; using either 'sniffer' technology to identify differences in the volatile chemicals given off by diseased and healthy plants or imaging techniques that can detect changes beyond the range of human vision. It will also look at developing and designing novel traps for capturing insects and DNA-based detection approaches that look for air- and water-borne pathogens. This will include better approaches for trapping spores and then applying high-throughput sequencing methods that will allow the identification of not only known pathogens but also new ones too.
However, developing these new technologies is only part of the challenge. It is also necessary to make sure these new methods are fit-for-purpose and that they work in a way that meets the needs of those enforcing tree health regulations (e.g. government), those upon who those regulation impact (e.g. woodland owners and industry) and the end-users who would be expected to use these new tools (e.g. inspectors in the field). We will also examine what type of end-users could be involved; this could be trained government inspectors (the traditional approach) or alternatives such as those working in the industry, volunteers or even the general public. So looking to see if a so-called 'citizen science' approach could be used for any of these new approaches.
It is also important to ensure that these new approaches can be deployed effectively, for example at locations that pose the greatest risk, and in a way that offers the best cost-benefit (i.e. the best balance between cost of using the technology and the improvements it can offer in terms of better pest and disease detection). In order to do this, we will take an interdisciplinary approach; getting experts from many different fields e.g. biology, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, physics, economics and social science, to work together to come up with the best overall solution that works technically, economically and socially.

Technical Summary

This project has 6 work packages (WP), each based around a different combination of skills and expertise. For WP2-6 there will be a focus on a particular detection technology, while WP1 will provide the technical oversight needed for effective deployment of these different technologies, as summarised:
WP1:a participatory interdisciplinary approach will be used to evaluate the needs of stakeholders and to ensure that the technologies meet these. It will also focus on the requirements of effective technology deployment, using mathematical modeling to develop sampling strategies, to create network-based risk maps and economic assessments of cost-effectiveness. Further aspects of deployment will be analysed using social science approaches including end-user acceptability and the potential for using citizen science.
WP2:analytical chemistry approaches will be used to identify diagnostic volatile organic compounds produced by pests, pathogens and diseased hosts and to translate these onto commercial-available portable platforms for use by inspectors in the field.
WP3:multispectral imaging will be used to identify markers for the early detection of biotic/abiotic stress in plants. A prototype bioimaging camera will be constructed that can be used to validate this approach in the field.
WP4:will develop mathematical models of spore movement and investigate metagenomics for broad-spectrum surveillance utilizing existing monitoring networks e.g. pollen traps. In addition, a novel integrated cyclone-based trapping and molecular detection system will be developed and evaluated.
WP5:novel semiochemical attractants will be identified for a range of wood-boring beetle pests, incorporated into traps designed for efficient detection and then deployed in a risk-based network.
WP6:methods for sampling and rapid screening water for Phytopthora spp., including 'unknowns' will be developed and validated. This will combine high-throughput sequencing with a rapid bioinformatic.

Planned Impact

The interdisciplinary design of this proposal will ensure maximum ongoing impact. Central to this is stakeholder engagement and our proposal has adopted a novel approach to facilliate this. Traditional approaches to developing new detection or diagnostic technologies have assumed the 'build it and they will come' approach; where the focus is on the technical aspects of the novel methodology, rather than the needs of end-users and the specifics of how it will be effectively deployed. This proposal reverses that by taking an inclusive view of what is required to achieve a successful outcome i.e. the deployment of a new technology that improves our biosecurity, and then co-designs technologies which fit that purpose. It achieves this by embracing an interdisciplinary approach and through establishing early engagement with stakeholders and end-users. Critical to this is the creation of a Learning Platform (Work package 1) which sits at the core of the project and cuts across the other technology-driven work packages (WPs 2-6). This platform will create communication channels, facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing across work packages and stakeholder groups, actively disseminating project outcomes and enabling the pathways to impact. This will be delivered as a series of workshops; both cross-cutting (looking at the broader issues associated with detection and its successful deployment) and more focused (looking at specific issues associated with a particular technology and the contexts for its use). In addition to interacting with stakeholders (e.g. policy-makers, inspectors, NGOs, industry), this approach will use the breadth of expertise established within the consortium and assembled from across a wide-range of disciplines. This brings together 'technology-owners' (natural and physical scientists) with 'technology-evaluators' (mathematical and social sciences) to ensure that the best technological approaches are married with suitable sampling and risk-based deployment strategies, that they have stakeholder acceptability and offer genuine cost-efficiency benefits to public and private stakeholders alike.

In addition to the novel approach built into the project design, the effective delivery of impact will also benefit from a consortium which has an extremely strong track record of delivering translation science, to policy and industry alike. As government science agencies, the major remit for both Fera and Forest Research is to take science and technology and to translate it into policy-focused tools and evidence. This is a role they provide routinely for Defra and Forestry Commission, and their associated inspectors on the frontline in the field (e.g. Fera PHSI and FC Inspectors). In terms of delivery of technologies to end-users including industry, there is also a strong track record across the consortium in a whole range of contexts e.g. Worcester (horticulture industry diagnostics), JHI (potato industry diagnostics), Greenwich (pest trap deployment) and Fera (field diagnostics deployment). The integration of a number of SMEs within the consortium is another pathway to impact; providing a route for new technologies to be made freely available beyond the end of the project. Finally as plant and tree health sits within a European regulatory framework, the ability to engage with international partners and stakeholders is important. The consortium has a wealth of experience and contacts in this area, in particular through its central role in a range of related EU-funded projects e.g. Q-Detect (Fera-led), ISEFOR (Aberdeen-led) and PERMIT (FR-led). It will also build upon existing systems for knowledge exchange within our region, especially through the use of the European Plant Protection Organization (EPPO). By working with EPPO, using activities such as its workshops and conferences, we will be able to reach out to tree health practitioners across Europe; in many cases the real frontline for UK biosecurity.
 
Description We have mapped and explored the stakeholder matrix involved in early detection of tree pests and pathogens. We have created events, processes and relationships to permit scientists developing new technologies to engage with stakeholders. We found that because scientists lack time, confidence and skills in facilitation, an active support of this is needed. We conducted interviews with a wide range of stakeholders to understand their attitudes to and needs for technologies. Responses differed depending on their roles and experience: we need effective and clear resources for community groups and professionals with multiple roles (such as rangers); we need specific and easy to use field technologies for inspectors; we need a combination of aerial surveillance and on the ground eyes for foresters; we need good networks of specialists in tree disease alongside those thinking about climate change and resilience; we need effective pre border inspection and regulation and we need to support industry such as nurseries to effectively make purchase and sale decisions and manage quarantine and monitoring to a high standard. Citizen science has a role to play but this is more for raising awareness and love of nature in children and communities, with only a few key expert volunteers contributing to significant monitoring and testing programmes. Lastly we need more public awareness.
Exploitation Route Our findings have specific implications for tree health programmes but also more widely for biosecurity within UK and in other countries. There are sector specific implications as well.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Energy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy,Other
URL http://protectingtreehealth.org.uk/index.php
 
Description The research has altered conceptual understanding of how we engage stakeholders effectively, how we can assess Technology Readiness Levels, how we define and perceive and enact the border in biosecurity and more. We have built the capacity of researchers to engage with stakeholders and developed a network of people interested in early detection of tree pests and pathogens.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services
 
Description EPPO recommendation
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact The recommendation was phrased as: "The importance of social engagement, in particular the need to consider stakeholder involvement, in the development and testing of new technologies, was recognised in order to optimise uptake and longer term collaboration." The staff of organisations involved in diagnostics indicated new understanding of this aspects in discussion at the conference.
URL http://archives.eppo.int/MEETINGS/2015_conferences/testa.htm
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Alba Trees
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Animal and Plant Health Agency
Department Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Community Woodlands Association
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO)
Country France, French Republic 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Field Studies council (FSC)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Forestry Commission
Department Observatree
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Ocean Optics
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Russell IPM (Integrated Pest Management)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Scottish Forestry Trust
Country Unknown 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Suterra
Country United States of America 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Development of a Learning Platform for the early detection of tree pests and pathogens 
Organisation Woodland Trust
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I am part of Work Package 1 in the LWEC project for early detection of tree pests and pathogens. By establishing this learning platform we hope to get more effective understanding and tools. I helped establish a database of these and more partners and design and run the workshops, coordinate newsletter and send out notifications by email and on web page.
Collaborator Contribution We are coordinating the partnership with a focus on early detection, particularly around new technology development
Impact learning platform reports and newsletter
Start Year 2014
 
Description Article in newsletter for RELU 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Article in the newsletter of RELU describing the LWEC early detection of tree pests and pathogens projects and inviting participation and engagement in workshops etc. and describing success of LP1
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.relu.ac.uk/landbridge/Relu%20Newsletter%20-%20January%202015.pdf
 
Description Biosecurity Innovation conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The Biosecurity Innovation conference is intended to wrap up the project within a wider context of biosecurity issues. Several themes will be involved:
agined and realised and these are reflected in the four main themes of the conference:

Emerging risks
How can we find out about new threats earlier, what can be done in the additional time and how beneficial is it?

Movement and borders
How can we work with the increasing scale and complexity of trade movements to reduce risk?

Behaviours
How can we understand, influence and nudge so as to adjust more bio-secure behaviours by stakeholders?

Technology
How can scientists produce tools that will be used effectively?

I talk in the behaviour theme, drawing on evidence of behaviour management from other areas of sustainability and environmental management. No impact has been seen yet but we hope to see support for an annual or biannual event subsequently.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://fera.co.uk/agriculture-horticulture/biosecurity.cfm
 
Description Learning Platform 1 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The first of three Learning Platforms had the following aims:

To establish a community of interest around early detection of UK tree pests and pathogens
To demonstrate the development and predicted impacts of five emerging technologies
To share lessons learnt around the use of previous and existing technologies
To identify stakeholder groups and individuals who could and would become involved in the development and testing of each technology
The presentations illustrated the need for new detection technologies and the initial interaction between the scientists developing such technologies and the stakeholders who would be implementing them. This dynamic interaction for the co-development of the technologies is a central theme of this LWEC THAPBI project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://protectingtreehealth.org.uk/learning-platform-1.php
 
Description Learning Platform 2 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The second Learning Platform Workshop was held in Edinburgh on 26th October 2015. The aims of this workshop were:

To further establish a community of interest around early detection of UK tree pests and pathogens
To capture the perspectives of policy makers, community woodland groups and citizens as well as other stakeholders on early detection of tree pests and pathogens
To update this community on the development of five emerging technologies
To discuss potential deployment opportunities and formats of these technologies with stakeholders
To explore future and wider possibilities for the framing of early detection technologies
It was a successful and interactive day!
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://protectingtreehealth.org.uk/learning-platform-2.php
 
Description Learning Platform 3 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 50 people attended our Learning platform 3 workshop in London. It was an interactive day at which scientists presented videos to demonstrate how their technologies could work in the field and we had good feedback from participants about how technologies could be improved. As a result of this workshop we explored how citizen scientists might experience a biosecurity backlash in a further part of the study. As a result of this workshop scientists made slight modifications to technology development. Connected to this workshop we planned a Biosecurity Innovation conference for March 2017 in York and we are considering making this an annual event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://protectingtreehealth.org.uk/learning-platform-3.php
 
Description Newsletter Jan 2016 for LWEC Early detection project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Newsletter summarising activities and inviting participation sent out to whole partnership database
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://protectingtreehealth.org.uk/documents/newsletter-jan-2016.pdf
 
Description Nurseries visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact There was a sociotechnical learning lab visit to nurseries near York to understand the needs of nurseries in early detection of tree pests and pathogens and to explore how our developing technologies might work there.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to EPPO conference, Angers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation on stakeholder engagement in technology development and deployment generated useful discussion and led to a recommendation from the biannual EPPO conference to reach all European plant protection organisations and departments. "The importance of social engagement, in particular the need to consider stakeholder involvement, in the development and testing of new technologies, was recognised in order to optimise uptake and longer term collaboration."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://archives.eppo.int/MEETINGS/2015_conferences/testa.htm
 
Description Socio-technological learning lab Heathrow inspectors 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We were recently lucky enough to be
hosted by the inspectors at Heathrow. We were shown the
pragmatic reality of inspecting, and discussed how new
technologies might increase rather than impede efficacy and
efficiency. We all visited a storage and inspection facility near
the airport and some of us went to see what happens on the
docks at Southampton.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://protectingtreehealth.org.uk/documents/newsletter-jan-2016.pdf