Decline in plant disease expertise a cause for concern

JOB cuts are threatening Britain’s ability to combat new diseases of crops and trees, according to a new report.

 An ‘Audit of Plant Pathology Education and Training in the UK’, published by the British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP), highlights a serious decline in teaching and research on plant diseases in British universities and colleges.

Greatly reduced

Plant pathology has been lost completely, or greatly reduced at 11 universities and colleges, while fewer than half of the institutions which teach biology, agriculture or forestry offer courses in plant pathology, says the report.

 Professor James Brown, President of the British Society of Plant Pathology, said: “These job losses are severe. Britain is not producing graduates with the expertise needed to identify and control plant diseases in our farms and woodlands.

“One of the most worrying findings is the decline in practical training in plant pathology. Only one in seven universities now provide practical classes which give students hands-on experience of plant disease.”

 The report attributes the loss of expertise to a shift towards subjects which bring more short-term income into universities.

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