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Over £2.4m joint investment to combat pests and microbe pathogens of crops and livestock in Brazil

Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda). Copyright: Dyrson Abbade Neto - University of São Paulo

BBSRC has recently invested in six projects to be funded through the Newton Fund to combat one of the biggest threats to food security - agricultural losses due to pests and pathogens that are resistant to current treatments.

Agricultural pests and pathogens on which current treatments have no effect are constantly emerging leaving farmers helpless to control for outbreaks. Unless better monitoring systems, new treatments, and management practises become available there will be little to be done to prevent massive agricultural losses. This is an acute problem in Brazil with agriculture accounting for 26% of gross domestic product.

Brown stink bug (Euschistus heros). Copyright: Dyrson Abbade Neto - University of São Paulo
Brown stink bug (Euschistus heros). Copyright: Dyrson Abbade Neto - University of São Paulo

Developing fast and accurate surveillance tools mean disease outbreaks can be detected early and treatment regimens can be more targeted. Two of the awarded projects will be developing novel DNA detection methods for major fungal diseases of wheat, soybean and banana as well as for two major pest insects, the neotropical brown stink bug and the fall armyworm. The new tools will be able to tell apart fungi and insects resistant to currently available treatments and therefore avoid wasteful application of chemicals.

Other projects focus on new ways to prevent plants being eaten by insects. One of the projects will be combining nanoparticles and botanical insecticides such as garlic essential oil to make treatments more affordable and more effective, while another one will be employing principles of the evolutionary theory to prevent resistant pests emerging in the first place.

Finally, there are two projects targeting antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella (a common livestock pathogen) and the bacterium causing Asiatic citrus canker, a devastating and untreatable disease of orange trees. Since Brazil is a major producer and exporter of pork, chicken meat and oranges, developing solutions to these growing challenges will benefit the Brazilian economy and consumers globally.

The investment is being made in partnership with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) in Brazil. The projects represent truly collaborative efforts involving 9 UK institutions and 6 Brazilian institutions responsible for delivering the research.

“FAPESP and BBSRC have a solid history of collaboration to foster joint research led by Principal Investigators in the UK and in São Paulo, Brazil. We are happy to announce the selected projects, which will contribute to safer and healthier agriculture, food production, and livestock raising in Brazil”, said Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP’s Scientific Director.

2018-2019 is the UK-Brazil Year of Science and Innovation and this international collaboration will have a positive impact on current challenges to Brazilian agriculture, informing best practice to minimise losses and protect farmers’ livelihoods.

BBSRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Melanie Welham, said, “BBSRC is pleased to celebrate our long partnership with FAPESP by working together to alleviate farmers from the burden of uncontrollable diseases in crops and livestock. This important research will also benefit consumers who need access to safe food and will support sustainable agricultural production in Brazil.”

The projects that have been funded are:

  1. Novel real-time disease surveillance and fungicide resistance monitoring tools to foster a smart and sustainable crop protection platform in Brazil
    Dr Bart Fraaije, Rothamsted Research / Assoc Professor Paulo C. Ceresini, São Paulo State University
  2. Understanding the evolution of insecticide resistance in Brazilian crop pests: Towards effective Insecticide Resistance Management (IRM)
    Professor Christopher Bass, University of Exeter / Professor Celso Omoto, University of São Paulo
  3. Xanthomonas citri subsp. citri citrus canker in São Paulo. Molecular epidemiology and biocontrol potential of bacteriophage and their depolymerases
    Professor Mark Enright, Manchester Metropolitan University / Assoc. Professor Henrique Ferreira, São Paulo State University
  4. Novel delivery of phytochemicals for sustainable crop protection
    Professor Toby Bruce, Keele University / Professor Maria Da Silva, Federal University of São Carlos
  5. ENDORSE: ENhancing Diversity to Overcome ReSistance Evolution
    Dr Luc Bussiere, University of Stirling / Asst. Professor Ricardo Polanczyk, São Paulo State University
  6. Drivers and dynamics of antimicrobial resistance and Salmonella in Brazilian pig and poultry production
    Dr Alison Mather, Quadram Institute Bioscience / Assoc. Professor Andrea M. Moreno, University of São Paulo


About Newton Fund

The Newton Fund is a global UK government programme which builds research and innovation partnerships with 17 partner countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK Government investment of £735 million up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries. Follow via Twitter: @NewtonFund


São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships, and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £498 million in world-class bioscience in 2017-18. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about UK Research and Innovation.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.


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Tags: BBSRC press release Newton Fund funding pests crops international food security