UK-French co-operation targets crop improvements

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Agriculture Collaboration Soil

Three projects drawing on the expertise of researchers in both the
UK and France could translate into practical improvements in crop
and agronomic science.

All three have received awards, worth over £2m, from an Anglo-French partnership between the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), set up to encourage international collaboration.

BBSRC is investing £1.6 million in the three projects with INRA providing a similar level of support in their institutes.

The new projects are being undertaken by three university and institute consortia. The first is the University of Cambridge, Rothamsted Research, INRA Grignon and INRA Rennes. Researchers from these institutions will look at how a combination of mathematical modelling and experimental techniques can be used to predict and manage evolutionary changes in pathogen populations in order to prevent disease invasion in crops.

The second consortium is the University of York and INRA Montpellier. Researchers will examine the genes involved in the transport of sodium and potassium in barley and rice to explore whether a greater understanding of their mechanisms may help develop improved crop varieties which are then more able to grow in poor soil conditions.

And finally, the third project is being undertaken by the University of Nottingham, the John Innes Centre, Rothamsted Research, INRA Clermont-Ferrand and INRA Mons-Peronne. Researchers will examine the traits and genes that enable some wheat varieties to produce more yield with less nitrogen, with the aim of discovering how farmers may be able to use less nitrogen fertiliser in the future.

BBSRC commissioned a review of Crop Science, published in 2004, and one of the findings of the review was that BBSRC should take the lead in the development of international programmes.

BBSRC and INRA joined forces last year to support crop science following a recommendation made in the BBSRC Crop Science review that the UK community should increase collaboration with European partners. These are the first three projects to receive funding following the review.

"Collaborative programmes such as these are crucial in furthering our knowledge of crop science,"​ said BBSRC chief executive Professor Julia Goodfellow.

"With climate change, changing food demands and the emergence of new pests and diseases, the need to work with international partners to maximise information sharing and effective use of resources is greater than ever."

The BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by government, BBSRC annually invests around £350 million in a wide range of research including the agriculture and food sectors.

INRA has been developing research in the areas of agriculture, food and nutrition and the environment in France for 60 years.

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