Risk and Plant Disease Management: Supply Chain Perspectives in the UK Wheat Sector


  • Brian Ilbery University of Gloucestershire
  • Damian Maye University of Gloucestershire
  • Julie Ingram University of Gloucestershire
  • Ruth Little Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK


While the relationship between food security and plant diseases has been the subject of scientific research, little is known about the attitudes of key supply chain actors towards plant diseases within specific food supply chains. Drawing on concepts of crop protection, control and risk perception, this paper examines ways in which endemic plant disease risks in the UK wheat supply chain are perceived and managed by key 'upstream' and 'downstream' businesses. Septoria and Yellow Rust emerge as the main perceived disease threats to UK wheat production. However, interviewees feel that plant disease is a controllable risk and one that rests mainly at the production end of the supply chain. As a consequence of this assumed 'control', there is a tendency to grow higher-yielding but less disease-resistant wheat varieties. This increases risk along the wheat supply chain, potentially raising costs and prices. Climate change and the potential banning of certain fungicides under EU legislation are perceived future threats that could increase uncertainty and change the balance between 'control' and 'resistance', the latter through the use of more diseaseresistant varieties. More research is urgently needed on the perceived impacts of plant disease on other food supply chains and on the relationship between crop protection and risk perception. Keywords: Plant disease; crop protection; control; resistance; risk perception; UK wheat supply chain.