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October 9th, 2017 / Univ. of Bristol, UK

The University of Bristol has been awarded £2 million to lead a major new project that aims to tackle the devastation caused by vector-borne plant diseases in Africa.

In much the same way as insects can transmit human diseases, destructive plant diseases are transmitted by aphids, beetles, whitefly and other insects.

These act as vectors of plant viruses and spread disease by moving between plants in a field.

Smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa grow a range of crops to feed their families.

Vector-borne plant viruses are a significant constraint on staple and cash crops such as cassava, sweet potato, maize and yam.

Limiting crop production causes food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty, all of which hinder economic and social development.

The emergence of new viral diseases and the environmental fluctuations of climate change together with resource limitation and population growth will also acutely impact this region of the world.

Professor Gary Foster and his team from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences have long been recognised as world-leading in the area of plant virology and vector-transmitted diseases, with particular interest in food security.

As such, he has been awarded a £2 million Vector-borne Disease Network grant, funded by the UK government Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) which supports research on global issues that affect developing countries.

The funding will be used to build a sustainable network of scientists and researchers to address the challenges of vector-borne plant viruses in Africa. Read more