Wind speeds play an important role in the spread of crop-threatening plant diseases. However, climate predictions indicate that the spread of such diseases in Scotland may be hindered in the future by reductions in spring and summer wind speeds. 

Understanding how reductions in wind speed may affect the dispersal of plant diseases provides an opportunity to reduce the amount of chemicals used to protect crops from disease. This would reduce the environmental impact of crop production and improve resource efficiency.

This paper reports on the initial findings of research carried out by the James Hutton Institute, which modelled the impact of changes in wind speed on the spread of potato late blight.

Based on this research, the report highlights potential opportunities to reduce the use of chemicals through:

  •  a transition from fixed, calendar spray regimes towards accurate disease forecasting, allowing the correct agro-chemical products to be applied during critical periods of inoculum pressure;
  • the establishment of disease-suppressive agricultural landscapes to capitalise on expected reductions in inoculum pressure.

This ongoing research project will deliver novel agricultural management strategies and inform the Scottish Government’s climate change adaptation, food security and water policies.