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115R473 PhD Late Blight Models

Publication Date: 
30 July 2014
Author/Contact :
David Cooke

Contractor :
James Hutton Institute (JHI)

Full Research Project Title: Improved potato late blight management using sophisticated models of pathogen infection and spread
Duration: May 2014 - April 2017


A robust late blight management package is a key priority for GB potato growers.  Effective and timely control relies on accurate prediction of the survival, infection and spread of the pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, within and between crops. GB growers rely on Smith Periods, as a means of predicting late blight activity.  A Smith Period describes a set of environmental conditions during which disease is able to develop in planta (within a plant). These conditions were, however, defined from field observations in the 1950s and current evidence suggests that the criteria should be updated to provide a better predictor of blight.   A further weakness is that these data refer to past weather data and a single location, i.e. they do not account for disease pressure in surrounding regions.


James Hutton Institute (JHI)

Aims and objectives

Aim: To develop an accurate and predictive method of assessing blight risk across GB.


a) To establish and validate parameters related to pathogen infection and spread.
b) To incorporate the above parameters into existing mathematical models to provide a unique spatially explicit late blight forecasting system


Predictions to be used in the model will be based on weather forecast data, the properties of the contemporary pathogen population that consolidates the current epidemiological understanding of disease pressure, and risk of spatial spread at the landscape-scale for various meteorological lead times (i.e. 1-day, 2-day forecast).  The system will be based on highly sophisticated spatially explicit models of late blight infection and landscape-scale spread developed and validated by Peter Skelsey (JHI) which will be updated to UK populations and conditions. The student will work closely with the industry and the AHDB Potatoes to develop methods that are relevant and applicable to day-to-day management decisions and are appropriate for implementation on a GB scale.

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