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Global Meteorological Simulator (GMS): For plant health and disease


Over 10 years ago the United Nations issued the stark warning that we need to double our food production by 2050 to meet demands from the world's growing population. There are serious obstacles to achieving this goal: crop pathogens, pests and a global decline in pollinators all pose a major threat to agricultural productivity. It is therefore clear that innovative and sustainable strategies in plant research are needed to combat this crisis. A critical aspect of research into plant health and disease is having the ability to generate detailed understanding of how the microclimate affects (a) plant physiology, (b) disease lifecycle and transmission dynamics, (c) fitness costs of pesticide and antimicrobial resistance and (d) pest and pollinator behaviour. Only then can we begin to accurately make large-scale predictions that can sustainably promote and protect plant health in the face of environmental challenges and climate change. We propose to purchase a unique custom-built, state-of-the-art Global Meteorological Simulator (GMS) that will enable much-needed plant research across scales, from genes and molecules though to populations and ecosystems. The key novelty of the GMS is its ability to control microclimate conditions (temperature, humidity, light, CO2) with the novel capabilities of rainfall, fog, wind speed and wind direction control, which are all likely to be critical for understanding plant health and disease. Importantly, the GMS will be able to simulate past, current and predicted future climate scenarios using real-world meteorological data from anywhere in the world, thus adding realism while maintaining control. The establishment of GMS at the University of Exeter has the potential to transform the way we carry out BBSRC-facing research in the UK and strengthen the links with industrial collaborators. This will open new international collaborative opportunities that underpin global efforts into sustainably protecting plant health.

Professor Ivana Gudelj
University of Exeter
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