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Public seminar to examine natural route to crop protection

Posted on 14 May 2014

A leading University of York scientist will discuss sustainable crop protection at a public seminar organised in partnership with the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

A leading University of York scientist will discuss sustainable crop protection at a public seminar organised in partnership with the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

Professor Sue Hartley, Director of the University’s York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI), will examine novel approaches to protecting crops, capitalising on their inherent natural defences in crop plants.

Held at Fera, Sand Hutton, York, on Thursday, 22 May, ‘Sustainable Crop Protection Using Natural Plant Products’, is the first public event in a new joint University of York-Fera Food Resilience Initiative Seminar Series.

Professor Hartley said: “Since the beginning of agriculture around 10,000 years ago, food production has been compromised by the pests and diseases which attack our crops. Globally around one third of food production is lost to pests, even with the use of pesticides and other modern methods of crop protection.

“Given the projected increase in demand for food (up to 70 per cent increase by 2050 according to the UN) and the impacts of climate change on the spread and abundance of pest species, we urgently need new ways to protect our crops, preferably ones which are not dependant on scarce resources to produce and which do not harm the beneficial organisms in our agricultural ecosystems.

“The natural defences of crop plants have often been lost from our crops because we have selected varieties with high yield at the expense of effective defence, but still exist in wild ancestors, so we can restore these weapons to protect our crops in the future.”

The seminar series is part of the recently established Agri-Food Resilience Initiative (AFRI) - a collaboration between Fera and YESI. The series is examining ways of ensuring the future stability and integrity of agri-food supply chains in the face of the global challenges of climate change, declining natural resources and rapid socio political transformations.

The seminars allow lead scientists from Fera and YESI to examine subjects of shared interest and to discuss opportunities to contribute towards the UK government’s Agricultural Technologies Strategy.

AFRI is part of a broader ambition to galvanise the research capability within the Yorkshire and Humberside region, along with potential regional partners. These include Sand Hutton Applied Innovation Campus, Askham Bryan College, Bishop Burton College, Stockbridge Technology Centre, the National Non-Food Crops Centre, the Biorenewables Development Centre, York Science Park and BioVale.

The public seminar ‘Sustainable Crop Protection Using Natural Plant Products’ will take place the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Sand Hutton, York, YO41 1LZ, on Thursday, 22 May from 4-5pm. It will be followed by refreshments, canapés and networking from 5-6pm. To register to attend, please email with your name, organisation and contact details. The closing date for registration is Monday, 19 May. Please note that advance registration is essential for access onto the Fera site.

Further information:

  • For further information on the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI) at the University of York please visit

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