THE Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the Royal Holloway, University of London, are asking gardeners to take part in a new study to identify the most important plant pests and diseases affecting their gardens.

The information they provide will form the basis of a list of the most damaging problems they face.

From February to May 2017, the RHS is urging the UK’s 27 million gardeners, regardless of their level of expertise, to complete an online survey that will help scientists better understand the impact of plant pests and diseases on people’s lives.

The insights gardeners provide will help scientists focus their research efforts, as they work to develop ever more effective ways of controlling garden pests and diseases.

The new research has been designed to complement the RHS’ existing annual top pests and diseases data, which provides a snapshot of the year’s most troublesome pests and diseases.

The joint RHS/Royal Holloway study is a deeper dive into the pest and disease problems facing gardeners, problems that are less subject to the transitory impact of the weather or of one-off occurrences, such as the discovery of a new pest or disease.

Speaking about the new research, RHS head of plant health Dr Gerard Clover said: “The RHS is very fortunate to already have a bank of very rich information about the pest and disease problems gardeners face every year, but this new research is designed to drill down deeper to get to those core, persistent problems.

“When considering the question of what are the most ‘important’ pests and diseases to commercial horticulture, the focus is on the economic impact, but for gardeners, the picture is more complicated.

“For domestic gardeners the scope is much broader, ranging from the impact on aesthetics, through the services plants provide (lawns for recreation and hedges for privacy), to the negative impact on the quality of fruit and vegetable crops. It is this very variety that we need to capture to get as full a picture as possible of the challenges facing gardeners.”