Start date

15th March 2016


7.30 pm to 9.30 pm


Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ

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Rothamsted Research and the UK’s Centre of Excellence for Peas & Beans (PGRO) celebrate the International Year of Pulses, 2016.

  • Becky Ward, Principal Technical Officer at the UK’s Centre of Excellence for Peas & Beans PGRO, will discuss pulse crops which are grown in the UK, what they are used for, and how the PGRO improve production in collaboration with organisations, including Rothamsted Research.
  • Dr Steve Foster, Senior Research Scientist at Rothamsted Research, will outline research examining the nature and extent of insecticide resistance in the pea and bean weevil – an insect pest which attacks nitrogen fixing root nodules of field beans and peas.
  • Professor Toby Bruce, Senior Research Scientist at Rothamsted Research, will describe the progress made with new approaches to protecting pulses crops from the pea and bean weevil and the bruchid beetle – an insect pest which severely reduces the saleable quality of field beans by burrowing holes in the crop.

UK peas and beans – benefits and uses, Becky Ward – Principal Technical Officer, PGRO

Peas and beans are the main pulses grown in the UK and play a significant part in agricultural production, particularly at a time when there is increasing focus on agricultural resilience, sustainability, environment, water and energy consumption, and reduction of inputs and costs. Not only are they able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, improving soil fertility and productivity, they can also increase farm biodiversity. Pulses generate a smaller carbon footprint and use water more efficiently than many other crops.  In addition to their clear environmental and ecological benefits, they provide a disease break for other crop types and provide opportunities to tackle problem weeds in the rotation. Recognising the long term agro-ecological value of pulses, PGRO acknowledges the continued need to focus on yield and deliver grains of the highest quality. Our research programmes are developed with the farming industry to provide production strategies and solutions that meet the needs of UK growers in a rapidly evolving industry.

Becky Ward is a Principal Technical Officer at The Processors and Growers Research Organisation. She joined the organisation in 1991 and has a background in farming and agronomy, with a Master’s Degree in Agriculture and Environmental Science from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Her research at PGRO is aimed at providing improvements to current understanding of UK legume agronomy with a particular focus on key insect pests. With direct links to the farming industry, translation of research findings to growers is the primary objective for Becky and for PGRO as an organisation. These links allow scientific developments to be put into practice at the earliest opportunity. She is involved in collaborative work with industry partners and researchers in the EU and the UK.

Pyrethroid resistance in the pea and bean weevil in the UK, Dr Steve Foster - Senior Research Scientist, Rothamsted Research

Pyrethroid insecticides are a special chemical class of active ingredients found in many of the modern insecticides. In 2015, urgent research to understand the nature and extent of pyrethroid insecticide resistance in the pea and bean weevil (Sitona lineatus) was carried out. This work was in response to the pest becoming increasingly damaging to peas and beans, with reports of control failures associated with pyrethroid sprays. Adult samples, collected from Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire, were tested for resistance. Resistant adult weevils, capable of coordinated movement, were found at pyrethroid doses equivalent to that used in the field. My talk will outline our knowledge of pyrethroid resistance in pea and bean weevil in the UK.

Steve Foster gained a BSc in biology from York University in 1982 and a PhD from Nottingham University in 1989 for his work on insect behaviour, ecology and population genetics (in seaweed flies!). He joined Rothamsted Research in August 1992 (so he has worked his way steadily south!) where he has been working on insecticide resistance in crop pests, including aphids, beetles, weevils and thrips. This has involved studying the success of resistant insects, when insecticides are applied, and any potential handicaps they may suffer in the absence of insecticides. Steve’s findings are being used to advise farmers and agronomists on how best to protect UK crops from insecticide-resistant pests. His work is also providing a useful insight into the processes underlying evolution, something Charles Darwin would have appreciated greatly. 

Protecting pulses from pests – new approaches to control, Prof. Toby Bruce - Senior Research Scientist 

The pea and bean weevil (Sitona lineatus) attacks nitrogen fixing root nodules of field beans and peas. The bruchid beetle (Bruchus rufimanus) severely reduces the saleable quality of field beans by burrowing holes in crop. Currently blanket sprays of pyrethroid insecticides are used against these insect pests.  Pyrethroid resistance is evolving in insect pests of pulse crops, resulting in a pressing need to provide new control solutions. Instead of applying blanket sprays to the entire crop canopy our vision is to lure the pests to a bait station using an attractant and kill the pests using a naturally occurring biological control.   In partnership with Exosect, an electrostatically charged micropowder is being formulated from isolates of entomopathogenic fungus - a naturally occurring fungal disease which sticks to, and attacks, to the body of the pest. Rothamsted have identified a pheromone specific for the pea and bean weevil which attracts both sexes, and floral attractants for the bruchid beetle. These attractants will be formulated with the micropowder killing agent and placed strategically in inoculation stations in the field. My talk will describe progress made with the project to date.

Prof Toby Bruce is a Principal Investigator at Rothamsted Research. He joined the organisation in 2000 and has a background in Biology and a PhD in Chemical Ecology. He is convenor of the Association of Applied Biologists Biocontrol and IPM group, a Visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich Natural Resources Institute and Visiting Lecturer at Nottingham University. The aim of his research is to improve scientific understanding of insect-plant interactions and to use this knowledge to develop novel approaches to manage pests. He is keen on putting research into practice and is developing an innovative online resource for knowledge exchange with farmers and agronomists in his CROPROTECT project. As a direct result of his earlier research and development work, pheromone traps for orange wheat blossom midge are commercially available to wheat growers in the UK. He is involved in collaborative work with researchers in the EU, India and Africa.