SCEPTREplus sets sights on new pest, weed and disease targets

Thursday, 25 March 2021

With over 20 trials set to take place to find new and alternative plant protection products for a range of horticulture crops, the SCEPTREplus project is as busy as ever in its final year, explains Joe Martin.

When we launched the SCEPTREplus programme in 2017, our aim was to identify sustainable control options that fit with integrated pest management strategies that we could realistically get to market.

As we move to the final year of the project, with 259 promising new products already identified and 19 EAMUS and 2 on-label approvals secured, the demands for new targets and control options has only grown.

The withdrawal and gradual restrictions of key actives continues apace. Our exit from the EU is only likely to accelerate further loss of access to plant protection products. And with new threats that arrive in the UK, from tomato brown rugose fruit virus, lettuce Fusarium or the confirmation of the brown marmorated stink bug recently, the need for alternative control options will only grow.   

One of the most important elements we put in place for SCEPTREplus was its ability to respond annually to new threats and challenges. We needed to make sure the trials were responsive to the critical needs of the industry.

The trials we have now agreed for the final year of the project are no exception. We are continuing to work on some trials that we felt would benefit from further experimentation or were postponed because of COVID-19 with many of these trials looking at new targets.

Following consultation with industry and analysis from our risk register, we selected these trials based on critical need, where alternative control options were either lost or likely to be withdrawn in the future.

Cavity spot in carrots

Previous research trials to successfully inoculate cavity spot in carrots has paved the way for one of the new SCEPTREplus trials. It means, for the first time, we can accurately test fungicide and biocontrol options for use in integrated pest management strategies.

Previous field-based experiments to trial control options have failed despite best efforts because there was no, or low levels, of cavity spot present in the plots.

Thanks to John Clarkson and his team at the University of Warwick, research projects funded by AHDB and subsequently VEGin have developed a new method that results in higher levels of artificially inoculated cavity spot disease. 

This means we can now reliably assess a range of control treatments for cavity spot in the field which could lead to new and alternative plant protection options for growers in the future.

In this year’s SCEPTREplus trial, four crop protection products will be tested, including the current industry standard metalaxyl-m for comparison. The carrots will be assessed in late spring 2021.

Alternatives to thiram and metalaxyl-m

The withdrawal of the seed treatments thiram in 2019 and the glasshouse-use restriction recently placed on Metalaxyl-M have had a significant impact on disease control across a whole range of horticultural crops.

In response, we have confirmed three separate trials to evaluate alternative seed treatment control options. The studies will screen seed treatments for:

  • Damping-off in leek caused by Fusarium culmorum
  • Spinach stemphylium
  • Damping-off caused by Rhizoctonia solani in cauliflower

We anticipate the results will be relevant to broader research on the control of damping off pathogen and seed-borne diseases in other horticultural crops. Reports will be made available in autumn.

Image of staff member Joe Martin

Joe Martin

Crop protection senior scientist: Pesticide Regulation

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Here is the full list of trials for 2021:






Egg-laying deterrents for spotted wing drosophila

New acaricides for gall mite control on blackcurrant

Integrated control options for blueberry gall midge

Shield Bugs on tree fruits

New strategies to control apple canker



Control of sciarids and shore flies

Control of spider mite on field and container HNS



Field Vegetables

Flea beetle control in brassicas and baby leaf

Treatments to control fusarium on lettuce

Onion neck rot

Development of new strategies to control carrot cavity spot (macrocosm experiment)

Broadleaf weed control in legumes

Protected Edibles

Integrated control of tomato russet mite

Integrated control strategies for glasshouse mealybug

Development of integrated strategies to control mirid bug and macrolophus

Treatments to control fusarium on lettuce

Control of powdery mildew on protected crops



New strategies for whitefly control

Identification of seed treatment strategies to replace Thiram and Metalaxyl-M

Seed treatment project


SCEPTREplus is a four-year programme that aims to support the approval of sustainable plant protection products and develop integrated pest management programmes. 

Find out about trials on your crops in SCEPTREplus so far