A new research project could help protect the meat industry against the threat of climate change and food in security, according to the University of Edinburgh.
Researchers in Scotland and Africa have formed a partnership to develop technologies that will help farmers identify the best animal breeding stock. As a result, they could improve the health, productivity and economic value of livestock in tropical developing countries.
Teams aim to explore the genes that make some animals more resistant to diseases than others, as well as those that enable certain breeds to thrive in warmer, dry conditions.
Professor David Hume, director of The Roslin Institute based at the University of Edinburgh, said the project would be a collaboration between The University of Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya .
“With the threat of rising temperatures due to climate change, the need for affordable techniques to improve farming and food security in warmer climates is becoming a global challenge,” he claimed.
“We are delighted to announce this new partnership to address the issue, which builds on existing, successful collaborations between our three organisations.”
Researchers will also use genetic techniques to characterise new diseases that emerge and to track outbreaks.
Professor Geoff Simm, Scotland’s Rural College vice-principal of research, said: “This is a very significant alliance because it has the potential to transform our international efforts to help improve livestock genetics, enhancing food security but also reducing the environmental impact of global livestock production.”
The Scottish research will be carried out on the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus, which includes The Roslin Institute, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and Scotland’s Rural College.
The Africa site will be located at the ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya. It will involve scientists from both ILRI’s new global livestock genetics programme (LiveGene) and the Biosciences eastern and central Africa ILRI hub and their partners in Africa.
Dr Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, said he was delighted to form the alliance.
“Modern genetic approaches offer new opportunities to identify livestock suited to the diverse and demanding conditions under which African smallholder farmers work,” he said. “This new alliance brings together a unique mix of skills to address these exciting and important challenges.”