Regular news updates on the group's activities and key developments in science and technology in agriculture.

Group News

Promotion of Innovation
House of Commons, BEIS Questions
September 2016

APPGSTA Annual Report 2015/16
July 2016

APPGSTA Income & Expenditure Statement
July 2016

APPGSTA Annual Report 2014/15
July 2015

Balancing the Debate - Mark Spencer article for New Statesman
March 2015

Agri-science MP concerned over axing of EU chief scientist role
News Release, 13 November 2014

APPGSTA Annual Report 2012/13
January 2014

The UK as a global hub of agricultural innovation: George Freeman presentation to Oxford Farming Conference, January 2014

VIDEO: MP hails agri-tech project

VIDEO: George Freeman MP explains the significance of the Agri-Tech Strategy

UK Agri-Tech Strategy published

22 July 2013


APPGSTA Annual Report 2011/12

December 2012


Progressive agriculture can still be sustainable, Farm Business article, November 2012


George Freeman MP hails £250m bio-economy boost

24 May 2012


House of Lords Debate -

Innovation in EU Agriculture

February 2012


APPGSTA Annual Report 2010/11

December 2011



Support for agricultural R&D is essential to deliver sustainable increases in UK food production, November 2010


2016 Archive


2015 Archive


2014 Archive


2013 Archive


2012 Archive


2011 Archive

2010 Archive

2009 Archive

2008 Archive

Science & Technology News


Majority of EU nations block two new GM crops to be grown in Europe

A majority of EU countries voted on Monday against allowing two new genetically modified (GM) crops to be grown in Europe. The new licences, for two new GM maize varieties to be grown in the European Union, means the applications will now be passed to farm ministers.

EU Member States were asked to vote on the future of Pioneer's 1507 and Syngenta's Bt11, which kill insects by producing their own pesticide and are also resistant to a particular herbicide.

The governments were also asked to determine whether to extend authorisation for Monsanto's MON810, an insect-resistant maize that is grown mainly in Spain, but banned in a number of other counties. more

Farming UK, 28 March 2017 

Europe poised for total ban on bee-harming pesticides

The world’s most widely used insecticides would be banned from all fields across Europe under draft regulations from the European Commission, seen by the Guardian.

The documents are the first indication that the powerful commission wants a complete ban and cite “high acute risks to bees”. A ban could be in place this year if the proposals are approved by a majority of EU member states.

Bees and other pollinators are vital for many food crops but have been declining for decades due to habitat loss, disease and pesticide use. The insecticides, called neonicotinoids, have been in use for over 20 years and have been linked to serious harm in bees. more

The Guardian, 23 March 2017 

Genetically-modified crops have benefits - Princess Anne

Princess Anne has said genetically-modified crops have important benefits for providing food and she would be open to growing them on her own land. She told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today "we have to accept" the process could help production and livestock health.

Her brother, the Prince of Wales, has previously warned GM crops could cause an environmental disaster. But Princess Anne said: "To say we mustn't go there 'just in case' is probably not a practical argument."

In an interview with the rural affairs programme to be broadcast on Thursday, the 66-year-old Princess Royal said she saw no problem with modifying crops if it improved their ability to grow. "Gene technology has got real benefits to offer," said Princess Anne, who is a working farmer and patron of nearly 50 countryside organisations. more

BBC News, 22 March 2017 

Flower-rich habitats do benefit bumblebees

Major new research led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) has shown that flower-rich habitats are key to enhancing the survival of bumblebee families between years.

According to CEH, the study was the largest ever of its kind on wild bumblebee populations.

Researchers said their results will help farmers and political leaders manage the countryside more effectively to provide for wild bees, which are vital pollinators, but have suffered worrying population declines across the northern hemisphere. more

Farming Online, 21 March 2017  

European Chemicals Agency rules glyphosate is non-carcinogenic

In a major boost for farming groups, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has declared glyphosate to be non-carcinogenic. The ECHA’s findings support the conclusion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which said glyphosate was ‘unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans’ in November 2015.

The European Commission had asked the EFSA to examine claims made by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate posed a cancer risk.

Crop Protection Association chief executive Sarah Mukherjee said the ruling clearly showed the Commission should now re-authorise the chemical for the standard 15-year period. more

Farmers Guardian, 15 March 2017

New Brexit coalition unites voices on agricultural supply, trade, technology and advice

The Agri-Brexit Coalition is a new grouping of eight organisations and trade associations involved in agribusiness, which aims to bring together the expertise of this particular sector of UK agriculture plc as negotiations on Brexit progress.

The Agri-Brexit Coalition has been founded by: Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA), Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB), Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV), Crop Protection Association (CPA), Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA), National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC), and National Office of Animal Health (NOAH), explained Coalition Coordinator David Caffall, who is Chief Executive of AIC.

The new group will focus on those key issues in Brexit negotiations which are pertinent to the UK trading and supplying of goods, services, technology and advice to UK farmers. Its stated purpose is to inform and influence UK Governments in order to achieve a positive outcome to negotiations for UK Agriculture as well as the EU and the wider world. more

Farm Business, 14 March 2017 

Global precision agriculture market expected to reach £35.7bn by 2025

The global precision agriculture market is expected to reach $43.4 billion (£35.7bn) by 2025, according to new analysis.

According to the report by Research & Markets, precision agriculture is gaining traction in the market, owing to the increasing awareness for enhanced production and less wastage.

Variable rate technology is anticipated to witness significant growth over the forecast period, owing to the increased adoption of technology across the industry. more

Farming UK, 13 March 2017 

Scientists grow potatoes in Martian conditions

Peru’s International Potato Centre (CIP) and NASA have managed to grow potatoes in an extreme environment that replicates conditions on Mars.

The breakthrough, announced last week, brings the sci-fi theme explored in the 2015 blockbuster The Martian a step closer.

In the film, Matt Damon plays a botanist-cum-astronaut who is stranded on Mars and manages to grow potatoes to keep him alive until his erstwhile colleagues can attempt a rescue mission. more

Farming Online, 12 March 2017 

AHDB Horticulture stresses the need for crop protection measures

AHDB Horticulture has stressed the need for crop protection measures to adapt to ensure the UK’s horticultural crops are effectively protected in the long term. AHDB Horticulture's Strategy Director Steve Tones noted that while crop protection still accounted for 70% of AHDB Horticulture’s spend, changing environmental and political conditions means that the nature of crop protection is evolving.

“One of the industry’s major challenges is pesticide availability,” Mr Tones said. “While making effective use of the chemicals we can use we also need to develop crop protection methods which use plant biology to fight pests and diseases. New advances in precision farming techniques will also benefit the industry and should allow growers to rely less on chemical interventions.” more

Farming UK, 5 March 2017 

Electric tractors ‘on UK farms as early as 2020’

Electric tractors may be coming to UK farms at least 10 years sooner than anticipated, according to the NFU. A NFU paper, Electric tractors by 2020? – a review of advanced vehicle technology in the agricultural sector, describes the possible technology options of electric tractors.

Jonathan Scurlock, NFU renewables expert, said: “Imagine a farm where electric agricultural vehicles, some autonomous, some conventional, are connected to charging points in large solar PV equipped ‘carport-style’ machinery sheds, earning additional income from so-called ‘vehice-to-grid’ network balancing services while they are on charge. This may no longer be science fiction, but instead the technology of the near future.” more

Farmers Weekly, 1 March 2017 

FAO: World’s future food security in jeopardy

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has admitted that its food security goals won’t be met by 2030 in a new report that outlines challenges facing food production. Humanity's future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate, according to an FAO report released last week.

The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges paper points out that, although some progress has been made towards reducing the number of people who are hungry worldwide, since the 1980s, "expanding food production and economic growth have often come at a heavy cost to the natural environment.” more

Farming Online, 28 February 2017 

Bread's environmental costs are counted

The environmental impact of producing a loaf of bread has been analysed in depth from the farm to the shop shelf.

The biggest single factor is the use of fertiliser to grow wheat, which accounts for 43% of greenhouse gas emissions, say experts. Emissions arise from energy needed to make ammonium nitrate fertiliser and from nitrous oxide released when it is broken down in the soil.

Around 12 million loaves are sold each day in the UK. Consumers need to be more aware of the environmental costs of their food, say researchers at the University of Sheffield. more

BBC News, 27 February 2017 

Scientists produce pigs that may be protected from killer virus which costs industry billions

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have produced pigs that may be protected from an infection that costs the swine industry billions each year.

The team have used advanced gene editing techniques to produce pigs that are potentially resilient to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). Early tests have revealed that cells from the pigs are completely resistant to infection with both major subtypes of the virus that causes the disease. more

Farming UK, 24 February 2017 

Technology poised to answer farming labour shortage

Technological advances in agricultural production can help mitigate a potential shortage in EU migrant workers on UK farms after Brexit, the NFU conference was told.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union, a weak pound and “societal animosity” towards migrants were making it hard for farm businesses to attract seasonal and permanent foreign workers.

During a session entitled “Competitiveness: Keeping ahead of the game”, farmers were urged to embrace modern technologies, including robotics and drones, to improve crop production and increase efficiency. more

Farmers Weekly, 22 February 2017 

JIC scientists remove reliance on seasonality in new lines of broccoli - potentially doubling crop production

The BBSRC strategically funded John Innes Centre has announced a potential breakthrough in broccoli production that will aid in UK food resilience and global food security.

Scientists at the John Innes Centre are developing a new line of fast-growing sprouting broccoli that goes from seed to harvest in 8-10 weeks.

It has the potential to deliver two full crops a season in-field or it can be grown all year round in protected conditions, which could help with continuity of supply, as growers would no longer be reliant on seasonal weather conditions. more

BBSRC, 21 February 2017 

GM hens to boost bid to set up ‘frozen aviary’

Genetically modified hens that can lay eggs from different poultry breeds are helping Scottish scientists set up a “frozen aviary” to conserve rare and exotic birds.

Like a seed bank for poultry, the aviary will store primordial stem cells that give rise to eggs destined to hatch male or female offspring.

So far, the team from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have collected more than 500 samples from 25 different breeds. Held in a freezer at minus 150C, the cells will remain viable for decades. The researchers want to preserve rare chicken breeds that may be resistant to infections such as bird flu or have desirable traits such as high meat quality. more

The Scotsman, 19 February 2017

Report underlines importance of UK food production

A new report is calling for the UK to be more self-sufficient in food production, in the wake of continued global uncertainty and reliance on food produced elsewhere in the world.

The report, British Food: What role should UK producers have in feeding the UK? reveals the rapid increase of global goods’ trading over the past three decades, meaning we now export £18bn of food whilst importing £39bn. Food consumed in the UK is produced in 168 different countries.

Professor Tim Benton, lead author of the report and an expert on global food security, said: “It makes absolute sense to build up a stronger local food sector here in the UK and increase our resilience, meaning we could maintain access to a range of quality, locally produced goods.” more

Farm Business, 17 February 2017 

Sir John Beddington warns 'anti-science' leads to poor policy decisions on climate change, GM crops

A former UK chief scientist has warned that politicians around the globe are ignoring science for the sake of short-term political opportunism.

This comes, Sir John Beddington argues, as growing urban populations are demanding more energy, water and food at a time when climate change is creating more natural weather disasters.

"If a politician completely ignores scientific advice, then they're in danger of making policy decisions which will prove to be unutterably wrong," Sir John told ABC Rural during a visit to Australia. more

ABC Rural, 15 February 2017 

U.S. scientists develop new way to measure crop yields from space

U.S. researchers have come up with a new method of estimating crop yields from small farms in Africa using high-resolution images from the latest generation of satellites - a development which could help cut hunger in poor parts of the world.

Improving agricultural productivity is one of the main ways to lift people out of poverty but without accurate data it's difficult to identify the farmers who need help, scientists from Stanford University said.

Images from new, inexpensive satellites could be used to estimate yields and test interventions in poor regions where data is scarce, they said in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. more

Reuters, 13 February 2017 

Quinoa genome could see 'super-food' prices tumble

Scientists have successfully decoded the genome of quinoa, one of the world's most nutritious but underutilised crops.

The South American grain is a hugely popular "super-food" because it is well balanced and gluten-free. However, prices for quinoa have rocketed in recent years as demand exceeded supply.

Researchers believe the genetic code will rapidly lead to more productive varieties that will push down costs. more

BBC News, 9 February 2017 

Fake pesticides costing economy millions

The production of fake pesticides costs EU businesses €1.3 billion each year, including 76m euros and 200 jobs in the UK.

A new report from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) shows that 13.8% of legitimate revenues are lost each year due to counterfeiting of pesticides in the EU-28.

Those lost sales translate into 2,600 jobs directly lost across the pesticides sector in the EU, as legitimate manufacturers employ fewer people than they would have done in the absence of counterfeiting. more

Horticulture Week, 8 February 2017  

Scottish Conservatives ‘absolutely support’ GM crops

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, signalled her strong support for genetically modified crops at NFU Scotland’s conference, saying her party would ‘absolutely support’ their use.

In 2015, the Scottish Government banned the growth of GM crops and requested Scotland be excluded from any EU consents for their cultivation.

The move was panned by NFU Scotland’s chief executive Scott Walker, who said the crops could have a role in shaping sustainable agriculture and protecting the environment. more

Farmers Guardian, 8 February 2017 

Veg shortage highlights vital role of horticulture R&D

Headline news that UK supermarkets are rationing sales of fresh produce after bad weather hit supplies from southern Europe highlights the critical role of applied horticulture research focused on improving home-grown production, according to Professor Mario Caccamo, the newly appointed MD of Kent-based NIAB EMR.

“As the UK prepares for a future outside the EU Single Market, these short-term concerns over availability provide a timely reminder that the UK is only 50 per cent self-sufficient in fresh produce,” he said.

“There is a major opportunity for UK growers to increase market share through import substitution, and there has never been a greater need for innovative, industry-facing R&D in the horticulture sector to drive improved yields, quality, seasonality and production efficiency.” more

Farming Futures, 6 February 2017 

Iceberg lettuces and broccoli rationed as vegetable crisis hits supermarkets

Some supermarkets are rationing the number of iceberg lettuce and broccoli customers can buy - blaming poor growing conditions in southern Europe for a shortage in UK stores.

Tesco is limiting shoppers to three iceberg lettuces, as bad weather in Spain caused "availability issues".

Morrisons has a limit of two icebergs to stop "bulk buying", and is limiting broccoli to three heads per visit. more

BBC News, 3 February 2017 

Field scale GM wheat trials get the green light

Genetically modified wheat will be planted in the UK this spring after approval was given by Defra for Rothamsted Research to carry out a field trial.

The move had been widely anticipated after successful trial work carried out in glasshouses in 2016 using genes from stiff brome grass incorporated into the spring wheat variety Cadenza.

The GM wheat showed an improved ability to photosynthesise compared with conventional wheat and led to yield increases of up to 40%, although experts say double digit yield increases are unlikely to be replicated in field conditions. more

Farmers Weekly, 1 February 2017 

Opportunity to drive R&D through producer organisations says Minister

Producer organisations could provide an opportunity to drive forward research and development activity in the fresh produce sector according to Defra Minister George Eustice, who spoke at the Brassica and Leafy Salad Conference in Peterborough.

The remarks were welcomed by Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association. “There has never been a time when there has been a greater need for more R&D in the sector. At the present time the UK fresh produce industry only has a 50 per cent share of the home market. With the advent of Brexit there is a huge opportunity for UK producers to increase market share through a process of import substitution. Increased R&D will play an important part in achieving this and producer organisations could provide an ideal focus for greater near market research,” Mr Ward said. more

Farmers Guardian, 1 February 2017 

'Tuberculosis-resistant' cattle developed in China

Scientists in China say they have produced cloned cattle with increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis. Twenty calves were born, of which 11 survived for more than three months.

Bovine TB is a risk to cattle in many countries, including parts of the UK, Africa and Asia.

Researchers from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Northwest A&F University in Shaanxi, China used a genome editing tool to change the genetic code of cattle. They say the technology could have widespread uses in agriculture. more

BBC News, 1 February 2017 

Australian scientists use soybean oil to create graphene

Australian scientists have turned ordinary cooking oil into graphene, in a discovery they say lowers its cost to produce.

Graphene, a strong carbon material, is just one atom wide and conducts electricity better than copper. It was discovered at the University of Manchester in 2004, winning its inventors a Nobel Prize in 2010.

Now researchers say they can make graphene with soybean oil, potentially making it more commercially viable. more

BBC News, 1 February 2017

GM cultivation looks more likely as Defra voices support

UK officials have shown their continued support for GM technology, suggesting the controversial crops may well be cultivated on these shores after Brexit.

Defra’s pro-GM stance was made clear in a vote in Brussels on Friday (27 January), when the UK was one of eight member states in favour of licensing two new varieties of GM maize for cultivation in the EU, and reapproving an existing one.

A further 13 member states voted against the new authorisations, with seven countries abstaining. Given the usual split opinion, a final decision on whether to allow the two new varieties to be grown now rests with the EU Commission – which will likely happen in the spring. more

Farmers Weekly, 30 January 2017 

Seeds offer clue to domesticated plants' larger size

The seeds of domesticated plants could offer clues as to why cultivated crops are larger than their wild cousins, researchers have suggested.

Increased size is common among domesticated plants but the reason for increased growth is little understood.

The increase in the biomass is of interest to plant breeders as it could affect productivity, such as reducing grain yields, they added. The findings have been published in the journal Plant Biology. more

BBC News, 28 January 2017 

Casino experts help combat UK arable diseases

Data-crunching techniques employed by Las Vegas casinos are helping some of the UK’s biggest farming companies combat diseases such as septoria in winter wheat.

Analytics company Hummingbird Technologies says advanced data capture and machine learning algorithms can provide early warning of yield-robbing diseases.

Hummingbird chief executive Will Wells said the goal of the business was to emulate some of the advances seen in other sectors and apply them to agriculture. more

Farmers Weekly, 26 January 2017 

Understanding the challenge of resistance in agriculture

BBSRC is launching a call for applications to understand how agricultural pests and diseases become resistant to the agents currently used to control them.

The problem of resistance to antibiotics is well documented. Less well documented is the situation in agriculture. The majority of agricultural production (including cereals, vegetables and meat) in the developed world relies on a variety of chemical agents to control weeds, fungi, insect pests and parasites. Without these agents, crop yields would be lower (and in some cases, crops would be impossible to harvest) and livestock grow more slowly, and in some cases would die prematurely.

BBSRC is keen to address these problems, and has launched a ‘Highlight’ call for research grant applications which aim to understand how resistance develops and how it spreads through populations. more

BBSRC, 25 January 2017 

JIC spin-off Leaf Systems opened by Science Minister Jo Johnson

Leaf Systems International Ltd, a spin out company built on the world-leading UK bioscience research that takes place at the John Innes Centre, was today officially opened by Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.

Leaf Systems use a novel efficient, safe and simple system – Hypertrans® – to quickly produce proteins in plants such as vaccines, antibodies or enzymes. The proteins can then be extracted through crushing the leaves and purifying the product. The speed of the system means that it can rapidly produce large amounts of protein and so it is well suited to rapidly responding to emergencies like pandemics. more

John Innes Centre, 23 January 2017 

UK food supply at risk from climate change – Defra

Climate change poses “significant risks” to the UK food supply chain, says a government report.

Published by Defra, the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment report looks at the risks and challenges associated with global warming.

“The government recognises that climate change will present significant risks to the availability and supply of food in the UK,” it says. more

Farmers Weekly, 23 January 2017 

Growers desert oilseed rape amid neonicotinoids ban

The ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments is costing EU farmers more than £500m in lost revenue each year, a report has found.

The study, published by the EU’s Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture research consultancy, shows the ban has also shortened EU agricultural supply of OSR by 912,000t (-4%).

This production has been taken up in other parts of the world, such as the Americas, Ukraine and Australia where neonicotinoids banned in the UK and the EU remain widely used. more

Farmers Weekly, 18 January 2017 

Scientists uncover hidden wheat treasures

A team of scientists in the UK and USA have generated a new ground-breaking resource of ten million mutations in bread and pasta wheat varieties.

Researchers and breeders can search the public wheat database online to identify changes in their genes of interest and request seeds to improve the nutrition and production of wheat worldwide. They anticipate this will speed up the development of the wheat crop with highly sought-after traits, including disease resistance and increased yield.

Scientists from the Earlham Institute (EI, UK), the John Innes Centre (JIC, UK), Rothamsted Research (RRes, UK) and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis, USA), funded by BBSRC, USDA and HHMI, have catalogued ten million mutations by sequencing 400 billion bases of DNA from 2735 mutant wheat lines. These hidden mutations are likely to disrupt more than 90% of the pasta and bread wheat genes. more

BBSRC, 16 January 2017 

BBSRC BRAVO: optimising the performance of Brassica crops

January 2017 sees the launch of a new 5-year project BBSRC Brassica, Rapeseed and Vegetable Optimisation (BRAVO), funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Oilseed rape and Brassica vegetable crops have a combined UK market value in excess of £1Bn, but suffer yearly losses of up to £230M, primarily due to increasingly unfavourable and unpredictable weather patterns. BBSRC BRAVO aims to combat these crop losses by unravelling the processes that control key aspects of plant development.

This knowledge will then be applied to help develop new, more resilient varieties of Brassica crops that can achieve superior field performance whilst reducing yield loss and industry wastage. more

BBSRC, 13 January 2017 

Neonics unlikely to return, warns top Rothamsted scientist

A ban against neonicotinoids to control cabbage stem flea beetle in oilseed rape is likely to stay, a leading agricultural scientist has warned.

Lin Field, of Rothamsted Research, was speaking to agronomists at an annual conference organised by the Association of Independent Crop Consultants.

Her comments come days after it emerged the EU has delayed a review of its moratorium on neonicotinoids, including to control flea beetle in rape. more

Farmers Weekly, 11 January 2017

Neonics ban costs industry £500 million

The anticipated review of three neonicotinoid pesticides has been delayed by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) until autumn this year. It came as an EU report found the ban on the pesticides had cost farmers almost £500 million.

The EU food watchdog had been due to publish a re-evaluation of the scientific evidence of the safety of each pesticide – currently under EU restrictions – to bees this month. Efsa said it needed more time to consider the ’very large amount of information received during the call for data’. more

Farmers Guardian, 11 January 2017 

7.3 million tonnes of food wasted in UK in 2015

Consumers are being encouraged to waste less food, after new figures from WRAP show that £13 billion of edible food was needlessly thrown away from homes in 2015.

The latest results show that 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted, which if prevented, would have the environmental benefit of taking one in four cars off the road. more

Farm Business, 10 January 2017 

Weed control by robot

A research project part-funded by AHDB Horticulture is driving innovation in weed control and aims to reduce herbicide inputs for field vegetables by up to 95%.

Experts at University of Reading, Precision Farming Robotics Ltd, Concurrent Solutions llc and Knight Farm Machinery are developing the use of a cutting-edge automated spot herbicide ejector, ‘eyeSpot’, which will "point and shoot" metered droplets at individual leaves of unwanted plants in row crops.

The ejector will use an imaging system to distinguish weeds in field vegetable crops and will evaluate the dose of droplets required to kill those weeds at different growth stages. Herbicide droplets will then be accurately targeted to the leaves of the unwanted plants. more

Scottish Farmer, 7 January 2017 

Adjusting LED lights can improve crop quality, says research

Adjusting the light wavelengths and intensity of LED lighting can improve crop yields and quality, latest research findings show.

Research at the Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC), funded by AHDB Horticulture, has shown that by adjusting the quantity and quality of LED lighting, improvements in both the yields and the quality of ornamentals and other crops can be achieved, demonstrating that the benefits of growing with LEDs goes beyond simple energy savings.

The research at STC aims to gain a greater understanding about the underlying biology of plant responses to various lighting mixes and what this means in terms of plant morphology and speed of growth. more

Farming UK, 5 January 2017 

Brexit a ‘unique opportunity’ to rewrite crop protection rules

Brexit provides a “unique opportunity” for the UK government to base regulatory approaches to crop protection chemicals on robust risk assessment, the head of the British Crop Production Council (BCPC) has said.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Oxford Farming Conference, BCPC chairman Dr Colin Ruscoe said the sustainability of important plant protection products (PPPs) was under threat by the EU’s hazard-based approach to agrochemical approvals. more

Farmers Weekly, 4 January 2017 

Farm subsidies must refocus on environment, say MPs

Farm subsidies should be refocused after the UK leaves the EU to provide a better balance between support to agriculture and environmental protection, a report by an influential group of MPs has concluded.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said any new farm subsidies the government introduces to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) “should have clearly defined objectives linked the delivery of public goods”.

These include the promotion of biodiversity, preventing flooding and storing carbon “rather than simply providing income to support farmers”, said the report, The Future of the Natural Environment after the EU Referendum. more

Farmers Weekly, 4 January 2017 

New method to capture plant disease-resistant DNA

Scientists have developed an improved method for capturing DNA, allowing better differentiation between similar resistance (R) genes which provide plants with immunity to disease.

Dr Matt Clark, head of technology development at the Norwich-based Earlham Institute and lead author of the study, said: “Wild relatives of crops contain a huge repertoire of novel genes that could be used to breed more resistant varieties that need less pesticide treatments.

“When it comes to identifying key genes it can be very difficult for researchers to find the exact resistance gene due to the sheer similarity of their DNA sequences. Typical sequencing methods use short reads but these are often too short to prise similar genes apart. In this study, we can identify the exact gene that confers resistance to a certain infection, and use it in breeding programmes.” more

Farmers Guardian, 26 December 2016 

Brexit uncertainty 'corrosive' for science

Uncertainty over the nature of the UK's future relationship with the EU is having a "corrosive" effect on science, a House of Lords report says.

The report highlights what it says is a "delay in solid reassurances" on Brexit and "mixed messages" from ministers.

The report welcomes the increase to science funding announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement. But it says bold steps are needed to ensure the UK continues to attract the best scientific talent. more

BBC News, 20 December 2016 

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