SASA is strategically placed to conduct applied R&D on Scottish crops and the pest and pathogens which affect them. Research is conducted either in-house or, more usually in collaboration with colleagues at James Hutton Institute, Dundee, Fera, York or other institutes across the UK, Europe and beyond. Most of its research activities are dependent on the use of molecular biology techniques, such as nucleic acid sequencing, fingerprinting and real-time PCR; exploiting the technology available in its state-of-the-art laboratories.

A major area for work is the use of molecular genotyping for the recognition of potato and barley varieties. SASA has also been developing and introducing into its routine work novel diagnostics for a whole range of pests and pathogens. More recently it has developed expertise in pathogen population dynamics, using a range of sequencing- and fingerprinting-based technologies.