Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016: highlights

Report highlighting environment and rural economy research outputs, and resulting impact, funded through the programme.

Health and Welfare

Farming contributes £3.3 billion worth of output to the Scottish economy and underpins the £14 billion Scottish food and drink sector. Maintaining the high standards of plant and animal health in Scotland whilst reducing losses due to disease makes an essential contribution to productivity. Scotland has high health status for both animals and plants, with our cattle being declared officially TB free, and our seed potatoes free of several serious diseases including brown rot and ring rot. However, there are many threats from new pests and diseases, which could cause serious damage to our livestock and crops, and significant costs to our industry were they to cause a serious outbreak, and this research aims to mitigate that risk. The focus of Health and Welfare research is to reduce the burden of disease, secure a safe supply of high-quality food and to improve efficiency while managing environmental impacts and animal welfare.

Potato Late Blight

Potato is an important crop for Scotland, and we have a reputation for producing high-quality seed potatoes. The potentially devastating impact of potato late blight ( Phytophthora infestans), which contributed to the Irish potato famine in the 19th Century, to both crops and global food security keeps its management high on the potato industry's list of priorities. SRP research has contributed towards improved integrated pest and disease management of late blight by growers. By studying and understanding the pathogen population and its characteristics, research was able to inform better disease control and to improve late blight disease forecasting.

Bovine Viral Diarrhoea

Bovine viral diarrhoea ( BVD) is a common contagious disease of cattle which has high economic and welfare costs, causing abortion, infertility, failure to thrive and even death. The Scottish Government is supporting an ambitious industry-led scheme to eradicate it from Scotland. SRP research has been central in supporting this scheme, including research on national herd prevalence, economics and knowledge exchange. In addition, an online BVD database, designed for official and industry use, was delivered in collaboration with commercial BVD scheme providers. Researchers collaborated on qualitative risk assessments for herd level re-infection and on a meta-analysis of international BVD prevalence and risk. Statistical tools were also developed to differentiate herd exposure routes. Good progress is being made by the scheme, with 90% of breeding herds recording a negative BVD status as of January 2017.

Sharing Knowledge for Improved Animal Health

Effective knowledge exchange with target audiences is essential to maximise research impact. An example of this is where SRP researchers led Paraban and Paraban Reloaded projects, providing collaborative knowledge exchange based around a group of 'Champion' farms to demonstrate best practice for control of Johne's disease in Scottish cattle. Johne's disease is an infectious wasting condition of cattle and other ruminants, closely related to tuberculosis. Analyses of 'Champion' farm data demonstrated that for problem Johne's disease herds, successful management programmes need to be customised to each farm business. The two Paraban projects reached over 1,000 farmers through a series of open days and workshops, 99% of whom declared that they would act upon the recommendations made in the workshops.


Email: Jenny Watson,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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