Science & Technology News
Scientists pinpoint link between wheat yield and septoria
Scientists at the John Innes Centre in
Norwich believe they have discovered why plant breeders have
found it difficult to produce wheat varieties which combine
high yield and good resistance to septoria.
Professor James Brown and his colleague
Dr Lia Arraiano traced the problem back to decisions made
nearly sixty years ago after analysing resistance and
susceptibility to septoria in wheat varieties grown in the
UK between 1860 and 2000.
Using a technique called association
genetics, they found that the gene with the biggest effect
on increasing susceptibility to septoria is very closely
linked to one that increases yield and grain size.
Farmers Guardian, 21 October 2016
'Precision soil maps' to help farmers
into precision farming
Cranfield University is part of a
collaborative project aiming to help arable farmers and
landowners from all over the UK make a more affordable entry
into precision farming.
Lead partner AgSpace Agriculture employs
high resolution satellite data processed using a soil
brightness algorithm to show where soil quality variation
exists in fields.
This dataset will
be analysed by experts from the Cranfield Soil and Agrifood
Centre and modelled alongside Britain’s most comprehensive
soil datasets to produce a new ‘precision soil map’.
Farming UK, 20 October 2016
UN: Farming needs to harvest chance to cut emissions
The global farming sector has a big role
to play in the effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and
adapting to future climate change, the UN says.
A report by the Food and Agriculture
Organization said agriculture accounted for about a fifth of
emissions, which it said needed to be reduced.
The State of Food & Agriculture 2016 report said
"business as usual" would leave millions at risk from
hunger. Last year, nations adopted a UN goal of ending
hunger by 2030.
18 October 2016
Researchers to grow and harvest crop using only robots
UK researchers are attempting a world
first, to grow and harvest a hectare of cereal crops using
just robots, without the need for people to step on to the
The project entitled Hands Free
Hectare has just kicked off with members of Harper Adams
University engineering staff, supported and led by precision
farming specialist Precision Decisions creating their first
robotic farming machinery, ready for drilling a spring crop
16 October 2016
Global food production could fall by as much as 35-40 per
cent without pesticides, scientists warn
Agriculture experts from the University of
Hertfordshire have said pesticides play an important role to
play in ensuring food is safe and healthy for the world's
population. Global food production could fall by as much as
35-40 per cent without them, the scientists have warned.
In recent weeks
and days the use of pesticides has been in the headlines.
From their potential impact on honey bees (and other pollinator species) to
a steep decline in the number of UK butterflies,
there is a growing call for a total ban on pesticides from
But ahead of World
Food Day (Sunday 16th October) food sustainability and
agriculture experts at the University of Hertfordshire say
pesticides have an important role to play in ensuring that
there is enough safe and healthy food for the world’s
Farming UK, 14 October 2016
Sweet potato Vitamin A research wins World Food Prize
Four scientists have been awarded the 2016
World Food Prize for enriching sweet potatoes, which
resulted in health benefits for millions of people. They won
the prize for "the single most example of biofortification",
resulting in Vitamin A-boosted crops.
Since 1986, the World Food Prize aims to
recognise efforts to increase the quality and quantity of
available food. The researchers will receive their US
$250,000 (£203,000) prize at a ceremony in Iowa, US, on
Three of the 2016 laureates - Drs Maria
Andrade, Robert Mwanga and Jan Low from the CGIAR
International Potato Center - have been recognised for their
work developing the vitamin-enriched orange-fleshed sweet
potato (OFSP). The fourth winner, Dr Howard Bouis who
founded HarvestPlus at the International Food Policy
Research Institute, has been honoured for his work over 25
years to ensure biofortification was developed into an
international plant breeding strategy across more than 40
NFU calls for a stronger focus on crop research after
The NFU is calling for a stronger focus on
crop research to help increase crop quality and yields,
after the annual NFU harvest survey revealed that yields
were down across the sector compared to the previous year.
According to the survey, both yields of
wheat and barley, 14.2m tonnes (down 14.9% year-on-year) and
6.6m tonnes respectively, are in line with the five-year
average but the figures provide a stark comparison with
global production rising in 2016. The oilseed rape crop area
is now in its fifth year of decline and with poor yields,
production has been reduced to 1.7m tonnes (down 32.5%
year-on-year), well below the five-year average of 2.5m
For arable farmers to contend and remain
competitive in the face of volatile weather and low prices,
the NFU is calling for crop research to have a stronger
focus for British farmers to remain competitive in the
Business, 12 October 2016
Brussels keen to press on with spray ban in EFAs
EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan is
insisting his proposed ban on the use of pesticides on
certain crops in ecological focus areas (EFAs) will go
The plans are contained in greening
simplification measures, due to be signed off later this
year, and would affect catch crops, cover crops and
Opposition to Mr Hogan’s ideas was voiced
at Monday’s (10 October) meeting of EU farm ministers in
Luxembourg, with 18 member states signing a petition
claiming such a ban would undermine production.
Farmers Weekly, 11 October 2016
Leading scientist rejects claims farming is to blame for
loss of wildlife
A leading scientist has slammed claims
made in the State of Nature 2016 report that agricultural
intensification is to blame for the decline in wildlife in
the UK since the 1970s.
The report, written by over 50 wildlife
organisations and with a foreword from Sir David
Attenborough, said agricultural intensification is a leading
cause of biodiversity loss in the UK.
But now Dr Jonathan Storkey, senior
research scientist in the Agroecology Department at
Rothamsted Research, has said it was wrong to focus on
farming as one of the key drivers behind the decline in
10 October 2016
What will pesticides regulation look like post-Brexit?
A more science-based, pragmatic and faster
approach to approving pesticides and regulating their use in
the UK post Brexit was high on the wish list of many
attending the British Crop Production Congress.
The Chemicals Regulation Directorate,
responsible for regulating pesticides at UK level, held a
workshop where it asked delegates to put forward their
priorities for the future of plant protection products.
Suggestions included using a risk- rather
than hazard-based system of approval; speed and
predictability of the regulatory authority as well as the
ability to engage with it; a science-based approach; and
regulation independent from EFSA (European Food Safety
Authority), seen as being inefficient and ambiguous about
its data requirements when evaluating pesticides.
Farmers Guardian, 10
Omega-3 oils in farmed salmon 'halve in five years'
Levels of beneficial omega-3 oils in
farmed salmon have fallen significantly in the past five
years, a study shows.
BBC News has learned that, on average,
levels of omega-3s halved in the fish over that period.
Despite this, the analysis shows that farmed salmon is still
one of the richest sources of these fatty acids.
But the industry is
exploring new ways to arrest the decline - which appears to
be due to the type of feed given to the farmed fish.
6 October 2016
Farmers face fresh pesticide rules post-Brexit
New pesticide rules will be introduced
once the UK leaves the EU, Defra minister George Eustice has
revealed. But authorisation may still involve working
with other EU countries, he added.
“When we leave the European Union, we will
put in place our own authorisation procedures,” Mr Eustice
told an NFU fringe meeting at the Conservative Party
“That may still involve some kind of joint
working at a technical level – technical scientific groups
with other European countries and indeed with other
countries around the world.”
Farmers Weekly, 6 October 2016
Embrace innovation to allow industry to
grow and thrive
By embracing innovation, the whole
agricultural industry can grow and thrive, Allan Bowie, NFU
Scotland’s President told the Congress of European Farmers
today (Wednesday 5 October).
“Innovation is key to all parts of the farming, food and
drink industry. With a finite amount of land, a growing
world population and the added pressure of being asked to
use less resources while producing more, the need to
innovate has never been greater,” he said.
“We need policies and initiatives that understand the
complex factors that now go into food production and that
will be needed if we are to provide for the food needs of a
growing world population while addressing the challenges of
combatting climate change, using natural resources
sympathetically and ensuring that all in the food chain
share the risk as well as the rewards.”
Business, 5 October 2016
Gene editing: Ethical issues 'should be discussed'
Ethical questions around a new gene
editing technology need to be considered now - even though
its use may be some way off, experts say.
The Nuffield Council for Bioethics was
looking into CRISPR - a biological system for altering DNA.
Scientists believe CRISPR could have
radical effects on areas as diverse as disease prevention
and food security. The Nuffield Council said discussing
ethical issues now would aid public understanding of the new
News, 30 September 2016
Universities secure more than £1.5m funding for agricultural
A wide range of universities have been
successful in securing more than £1.5m of funding through
six awards from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and
Innovation Club (SARIC). SARIC is a public-private
partnership created to address some of the challenges of
sustainable intensification in agriculture.
The N8 universities, a partnership created
in 2007 of eight research-intensive universities in Northern
England - Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester,
Newcastle, Sheffield and York, have won funding for ten
These projects will
address key issues such as increasing the resilience of
cereal crops to weather damage, predicting water quality in
the event of pesticide run-off, and optimising nutrient use
efficiency through better decision-support systems.
Farming UK, 29 September 2016
Grass food crops facing climate change challenge
A study has highlighted the risk posed by
projected climate change on the world's ability to grow
A US team of researchers found that
forecasted shifts in climate by 2070 would occur too quickly
for species of grass to adapt to the new conditions.
The species facing an uncertain future
include wheat, corn, rice and sorghum, which provide almost
half of the calories consumed by humans. The findings appear in the Royal
Society Biology Letter journal.
28 September 2016
Costs and benefits of precision
technologies 'poorly understood', new review says
Barriers to the adoption and development
of precision farming technologies within the cereals and
oilseeds sector have been identified in an AHDB review.
Looking at the past, present and future of
precision agriculture, the in-house review was conducted to
identify ways to improve the uptake of precision farming
technology in the UK.
culminated in several key recommendations for further work,
including activities targeted at increasing the reliability
and ease of use of precision farming technologies, and
improving the level of quality guidance to help growers make
more informed investment decisions.
Farming UK, 26 September 2016
Poor food 'risks health of half the world'
Poor diets are undermining the health of
one in three of the world's people, an independent panel of
food and agriculture experts has warned.
The report says under-nourishment is
stunting the growth of nearly a quarter of children under
five. And by 2030 a third of the population could be
overweight or obese.
The report by the Global Panel on
Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition is being
presented to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.
BBC News, 25 September 2016
New technique to beat food fraudsters
Shoppers can be more confident that
their burgers are the real deal following a new method of
testing for meat fraud developed at the Institute of Food
Research on the Norwich Research Park.
Exploiting subtle differences in a key
meat protein, the addition of just 1% of horse into a beef
burger or of beef into lamb mince is now easy to spot. Not
only that, the technique gives an estimate of how much
unlabelled meat is illegally concealed in the product.
Institute of Food Research, 21 September 2016
Farmers told to cut antibiotic use by one-fifth
Farmers and vets have been told to cut
back on their use of antibiotics by one-fifth as the
government steps up its fight against antimicrobial
resistance (AMR) in humans.
The demand is contained in the
government’s response to the so-called O’Neill review, which
was published in May 2016.
While much of the commentary relates to
human medicine, the government is also keen to tackle the
issue of antibiotics use in livestock farming, which
numerous scientific reports have linked to the resistance
problem in humans.
Farmers Weekly, 20 September 2016
Agricultural R&D is on the move
geographical distribution of food and agricultural research
and development (AgR&D) is changing. Our analysis of more
than 50 years of data indicates that the governments of
middle-income nations are investing more than those of
high-income ones for the first time in modern history.
The numbers also suggest that,
globally, private-sector spending on AgR&D is catching up
with public-sector spending. Meanwhile, the gap between
spending by high-income and low-income countries is
Nature, 17 September 2016
Nature loss linked to farming intensity
More than 50 conservation groups say the
"policy-driven" intensification of farming is a significant
driver of nature loss in the UK. The State of Nature report
assessed 8,000 UK species and found that one in 10 are
threatened with extinction. More than half of farmland birds
(56%) including the turtle dove and corn bunting are in
danger of extinction.
The National Farmers Union said the report
ignored progress made by farmers on conservation in the last
Mark Eaton is the
lead author of the paper. He said: "We now know that farming
practices over recent decades have had the single largest
impact on the UK's wildlife. "The great majority of that
impact has been negative. This isn't deliberate, it is a
by-product of changes in farming to make it more efficient."
Scheme launched to connect farmers and beekeepers
A website designed to help farmers keep
beekeepers informed of their spraying intentions has been
Called BeeConnected, the scheme has been
developed under the so-called Voluntary Initiative (VI) and
follows a pilot scheme in Hertfordshire earlier this year.
operates on a very simple process whereby farmers identify
their fields and, in just a few clicks, are able to inform
local beekeepers when they intend to spray an insecticide in
particular fields,” explained VI chairman Richard Butler.
Farmers Weekly, 14 September
Feeding pigs seaweed can improve health, say scientists
An ingredient used in ancient Chinese
medicine could help improve piglet health and allow
producers to rear pigs without the need for antibiotics,
scientists have found.
Researchers at University College Dublin
(UCD) discovered that feeding seaweed extract to sows can
have lifetime impacts on piglet health and productivity.
As well as improving the quality of
colostrum, which leads to healthier piglets, scientists have
found that seaweed extract changes the structure of the gut,
cutting the risk of scouring during weaning. They also
discovered it reduces the amount of e coli in the gut,
reducing sickness in herds and potentially leading to a drop
in the amount of antimicrobials farmers need to use.
Farmers Weekly, 12 September
Rewilding can help the 'environment and farmers' from
flooding, says new report
A new report has been released that
suggests 'rewilding' the UK's natural landscape is the best
option for coping with flooding.
Rewilding Britain, the organisation behind the report, says a growing body of evidence suggests
that managing flood risk naturally, by restoring natural
processes, can be cheaper and more sustainable.
Flooding costs the UK economy more than £1
billion annually, a figure which can rise to nearer £5
billion in a bad year.
Farming UK, 9 September 2016
Growing resistance to antimicrobials could cost the world
Growing resistance to antimicrobials could
cost the world as much as $100 trillion (£76 tn) a year by
2050 unless efforts are made to tackle the issue, scientists
Experts in antimicrobial resistance said costs to
agriculture and the wider world could spiral out of control
unless investment in research into alternative treatments
was made immediately and farmers made efforts to increase
Speaking at the European Federation of Animal Science
conference in Belfast, Brendan Gilmore, Professor of
Pharmaceutical Microbiology, said rates of resistance would
increase to 100 per cent in 10 years if infection rates
remained at their current levels.
Farmers Guardian, 5 September 2016
Technology key to future of farming, Belfast Animal Science
Science, technology and research are key
to the future of Northern Ireland's agricultural sector, a
conference in Belfast has heard.
Welcoming 1,500 delegates to the European
Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) conference, Agriculture
Minister Michelle McIlveen said the adoption of new technology
was a priority.
Ms McIlveen said: "Northern Ireland has a
rich history of agri food innovations
and one of my key priorities is to enable our
agri-food industry to increase sustainability.”
Belfast Telegraph, 2
Drones and robotics: the future of ag-tech
A series of reports from the tech industry suggests the use
of drones and robotics in farming is on the increase, and is
only set to grow further.
A report released this week by Cambridge-based IDTechEx
suggests the high-tech sector is already worth $3bn in 2016,
and predicts that the market for agricultural drones and
robotics could grow to $10bn in five years’ time.
The report suggests drone usage in particular will lead to
ultra-precision farming and dominate agrochemical
Farming Online, 1 September 2016
EU commissioner Phil Hogan calls for focus on farm science
Agricultural science has been neglected
for too long and needs to be revitalised to help farmers
become “smarter, leaner and cleaner”, according to European
agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan.
Speaking at the European Federation of
Animal Science conference in Belfast, Mr Hogan said farmers
needed more and better knowledge about how to produce food
sustainably, and science should play a pivotal role in
helping them address the challenge.
“These days we expect farmers to do much
more than produce food,” he told delegates. “We expect them
to generate jobs and economic growth, and contribute to
environmental targets. Innovation within the sector is key
to helping balance these different priorities.”
Farmers Weekly, 31 August 2016
£3M awarded to boost sustainable
10 new interdisciplinary projects have
today received a share of £3M to improve the sustainability
of UK farming. The funding was awarded by BBSRC, NERC and
ESRC alongside 12 industry partners.
The grants totalling £3.2M were funded in
the second round of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and
Innovation Club (SARIC), which supports interdisciplinary
projects to provide solutions to key challenges affecting
the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the UK
crop and livestock sectors.
Among the funded
research studies is work to improve the weather resilience
of crops, sensing soil nitrogen, and advanced technologies
for crop management. The translational studies include work
to establish decision tools for slurry usage and potato cyst
nematode management, devices to assess and improve the use
of animal nutrients, and an assessment of the risks of
BBSRC, 25 August 2016
Research alliance aims to improve
The University of Edinburgh’s Roslin
Institute and Hendrix Genetics, a global leader in animal
breeding, have established a research agreement to improve
the sustainability of animal production.
Researchers will focus on driving
innovations that lead to greater disease resistance in
farmed animals and better selective breeding programmes.
Their goal is to reduce losses and improve
welfare in the fish farming and livestock industries.
Farming UK, 23 August 2016
Britain's wildlife 'crisis' with more than 120 species at
risk of extinction due to intensive farming
Britain’s wildlife is facing a “crisis”
with more than 120 species at risk of extinction due to
intensive farming, a report will warn.
Hundreds of the country’s best-known
animals - including types of woodpecker and butterfly - will
have an uncertain future with some disappearing completely
as their numbers decline rapidly, the State of Nature 2016
report will say.
David Attenborough, writing in a foreword for the report, is
expected to label the drastic changes a “crisis”. The
report, which will be published on September 14 and includes
research from experts across 53 wildlife organisations, will
point to agricultural policy as one of the aggravating
The Telegraph, 22 August 2016
Chinese and Scottish potato researchers
establish collaborative links
Chinese and Scottish researchers are to
work together and explore joint solutions to potato pests
and diseases that cause major losses to farmers and industry
across the world.
Last week, the James Hutton Institute and
the Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences (HAAS),
based in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, signed a
memorandum of understanding to establish collaboration links
and bring together different aspects of the research at each
HAAS is the main
Chinese government-funded centre for agricultural research
in the province of Heilongjiang, which is the most
productive agricultural province in China. HAAS addresses
research covering many major crops in the province.
Hutton Institute, 19 August 2016
New study links neonicotinoids to wild
bee decline across England
A new study has linked oilseed rape crops
grown from neonicotinoid-treated seed to the long-term
decline in wild bee species across the English countryside.
The research, led by the Centre for
Ecology & Hydrology, examined changes in the occurrence of
62 wild bee species with oilseed rape cropping patterns
across England between 1994 and 2011 - the time period
spanning the introduction of wide-scale commercial use of
found evidence suggesting that neonicotinoid use is linked
to large-scale and long-term decline in wild bee species
distributions and communities.
Farming UK, 17 August 2016
Virus attracts bumblebees to infected plants by changing
Study of bee-manipulating plant virus reveals a
“short-circuiting” of natural selection. Researchers suggest
that replicating the scent caused by infection could
encourage declining bee populations to pollinate crops –
helping both bee and human food supplies.
Plant scientists at the University of Cambridge have found
that the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) alters gene expression
in the tomato plants it infects, causing changes to
air-borne chemicals – the scent – emitted by the plants.
Bees can smell these subtle changes, and glasshouse
experiments have shown that bumblebees prefer infected
plants over healthy ones.
Seedquest, 16 August 2016
Gene mapping gives hope for ramularia control
A major step forward in looking at
non-chemical methods of the problem disease, ramularia,
following its gene-mapping at leading Scottish research
Scientists at Scotland’s Rural College,
with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh and
Rothamsted Research, have unravelled the genome of
ramularia, a fungal disease attacking barley crops.
The work, funded by Scottish Government,
opens the way to find better ways of controlling a pathogen
that can reduce yields by as much as 20%.
Scottish Farmer, 14 August 2016
Brexit: Government guarantee for post-EU funds
EU funding for farmers, scientists and
other projects will be replaced by the Treasury after
Brexit, Chancellor Philip Hammond has said.
In a move which could cost up to £6bn a
year, the Treasury will guarantee to back EU-funded projects
signed before this year's Autumn Statement.
Agricultural funding now provided by the
EU will also continue until 2020. But critics said the
guarantee does not go far enough and there was "continued
News, 13 August 2016
Action needed to 'future-proof' pollinators
International scientists are calling for
action to "future-proof" the prosperity of pollinating
insects, birds and mammals. They say agricultural expansion,
new pesticides and emerging viruses present the biggest
risks in coming decades.
Some 35% of global crop production and
more than 85% of wild flowering plants rely to some degree
on pollination. The research took a horizon-scanning
approach to identify future issues of concern over the next
"The world is changing very fast,
agricultural practices are changing, the way humans live is
changing and that could unleash a whole range of future
opportunities for pollinators but also threats to them,"
said Prof Mark Brown of Royal Holloway University of London,
who led the research.
Badgers may not spread TB to cattle through direct contact
Badgers may not transmit TB to cattle by
direct contact, according to new research.
A study suggests that cows contract the
disease by coming into contact with infected faeces and
urine in pasture.
The scientists involved suggest that
advice given to farmers to control the spread of the disease
may need to be reassessed. The research has been published
in Ecology Letters.
£9M funding to optimise UK food supply
and tackle global food security
Five new interdisciplinary research
projects have been awarded a portion of £9M to help increase
the resilience of UK food systems. The projects integrate
biological, environmental and social sciences to help ensure
food security in the face of evolving worldwide markets,
environmental and demographic changes, and threats posed by
pests and diseases.
The research looks
to optimise resilience, productivity and sustainability
across the food system, ensure resilient supply chains and
influence food choices to relieve pressure on global food
projects will focus specifically on increasing crop and
livestock tolerance to weather, emerging diseases, price
volatility and other environmental and social shocks and
include the development of models that can be used by the
food security community globally.
BBSRC, 4 August 2016
Call to seize Brexit science opportunity
The man who has taken charge of UK
research funding says Brexit presents scientists with an
In his first interview in his new job, Sir
John Kingman said research could be at the heart of
Britain's post-Brexit industrial strategy.
Sir John has recently taken over as
chairman of the newly created UK Research and Innovation
(UKRI) body. The organisation oversees £6 billion of
research funding annually.
2 August 2016
A step closer to understanding the
'switch' that triggers flowering in plants
Scientists at the John Innes Centre have
taken another crucial step towards understanding how plants
This new development uncovers a previously
unidentified step in the process of vernalisation, which
links an important gene responsible for flowering time to
the proteins that regulate it.
This new finding
could contribute towards the development of new varieties of
crops adapted to produce the food we need in a changing
BBSRC, 29 July 2016
Royal Society head calls for 'underwriting' of research
The Royal Society
president has called for the UK government to underwrite the
research of all UK-based researchers who apply for EU
Speaking in an
interview with BBC Newsnight, Prof Sir Venki Ramakrishnan,
said post-Brexit uncertainty needs to be "nipped in the
bud". He said EU researchers based in the UK also need to be
given assurances that they will be able to stay
"We're hearing about UK researchers being
excluded from collaborations because their other EU
collaborators don't want to take on a UK-based researcher
because they don't know what their status will be," said
News, 28 July 2016
Tomatoes that last longer
and still taste good
The tomato (Solanum
is one of the most valuable fruit crops in the world with an
annual global value in excess of $50Bn. Plant breeders are
working continuously to supply high yielding, better
tasting, more nutritious and longer lasting tomato
varieties, but some of the best tasting varieties soften
rapidly and can have a short shelf life.
The precise mechanisms involved in tomato
softening have remained a mystery until now. Research led by Graham
Seymour, Professor of Plant Biotechnology in the School
of Biosciences at
The University of Nottingham, has identified a gene that
encodes an enzyme which plays a crucial role in controlling
softening of the tomato fruit.
The results, published in the academic
Biotechnology, could pave the way for new varieties of
better tasting tomatoes with improved postharvest life
through conventional plant breeding.
BBSRC, 26 July 2016
Syngenta chief points to Brexit boost
for UK’s crop regulations
The UK’s planned exit from the EU
would allow it to break with “politicised” European
regulation in agriculture and take swifter advantage of
scientific breakthroughs, the chief executive of
Switzerland’s Syngenta agribusiness has said.
Erik Fyrwald argued the UK was a “voice for science-based
regulation” and likely to develop a regulatory system that
allowed the faster adoption of crop protection and seed
technologies, which boosted farm competitiveness.
His comments are an example of
international business spotting benefits from the UK
“Brexit” decision, even if they are unsure about its long
term impact. Syngenta has 2,500 employees in the UK,
including in research.
Financial Times, 25 July 2016
£4M awarded for
new UK-Brazil joint projects in wheat research
A £4M investment between BBSRC and the
Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) has
been made to support collaborations between UK and Brazilian
scientists in wheat research.
The funding (£2M from the Newton Fund
delivered through BBSRC, with matched resources from
Embrapa) has been awarded to four partnerships between the
UK and Brazil.
The funding aims to inform the
development of new traits or practices to enhance the
sustainability of wheat production in the context of the
BBSRC, 22 July 2016
UK scientists speak about Brexit pain
Just weeks after the UK voted to leave
the European Union, researchers are losing grants. BBC News
has spoken to several research groups and small businesses
who say they will soon have to scale down operations and lay
Seven national academies have called on the government to
ensure that research is protected in Brexit negotiations;
the President of the Royal Society has
told the BBC that
the future prosperity of the UK is at stake.
British universities, in collaboration
with small businesses, receive £850m in research grants each
year from the European Union. Since the vote to leave the
European Union there have been reports that British
applicants for grants are already losing out.
19 July 2016
Ancient barley DNA gives insight into
An international group of scientists have
analysed the DNA of 6,000 year old barley finding that it is
remarkably similar to modern day varieties. They say it
could also hold the key to introducing successful genetic
Due to the speed at which plants
decompose, finding intact ancient plant DNA is extremely
rare. The preserved ancient barley was excavated near the
Dead Sea, the journal
Nature Genetics reports.
The arid environment conserved the biological integrity of
the grains, the paper says.
18 July 2016
Farming and forestry can deliver food
security, says UN
Improving co-operation between nations'
farming and forestry sectors will help reduce deforestation
and improve food security, a UN report has suggested.
Between 2000 and 2010, tropical nations
saw net forest loss of seven million hectares per year and a
net gain in farmland of six million hectares.
Collaboration between the sectors would
reduce environmental damage and improve social and economic
outcomes, it said.
Scientists warn of 'unsafe' decline
An international team of scientists has issued a warning
that biodiversity is dropping below safe levels for the
support and wellbeing of human societies.
As a species we are inextricably
connected with the processes of our local ecosystems, such
as crop pollination, waste decomposition and regulation of
the carbon cycle. These ecosystems depend on the biological
diversity within them to function.
The planetary boundaries framework updated
in 2015 states that losing more than 10% of the biodiversity
in an area places the local ecosystem at risk. A report in Science this
week states that 58% of the world's land coverage already
falls below this safe level. They find that the global
average of biodiversity has dropped to 85% of that of
agri-tech projects unveiled with share of £16m funding from
Twenty-four innovative agri-tech
projects have today been awarded a share of £16 million
funding from the government. Through the latest round of the
Government’s Agri-Tech Catalyst, the aim is to solve some of
the world’s greatest agricultural challenges – from food
security and sustainability to weed control and livestock
This round of the Government’s
Agri-Tech Catalyst – alongside industry co-investment – has
provided awards between £200,000 and £1.5 million to the
most pioneering science and technology projects within the
UK’s agricultural sector to help meet the global demand for
food with the least environmental impact.
Successful projects in the fifth round
of funding announcements include the development of a robot
that accurately eliminates and controls weeds, which will
significantly reduce the use of herbicides in food
production. Another project will look at why potato greening
occurs and how to prevent it – helping to reduce the 100,000
tonnes of potatoes thrown away annually.
Farming UK, 13 July 2016
poses threats to UK farming
A major climate report has shown that
more needs to be done to tackle climate change and protect
the natural environment in Britain, which is already feeling
the effects of climate change. According to the report, the
main risks to the country are from further flooding, heat
and impacts on food and farming.
The UK government is required to publish a report on the
risk from climate change every five years; this latest
report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), released
on Tuesday, shows that conditions in the UK are
mirroring those seen around the world, with rising sea
levels, higher average temperatures and more extreme weather
events observed in recent years.
Farming Online, 12 July 2016
Drought triggers 'austerity' root
system in grass crops
Grass species of crops adopt an
"austerity" strategy and limits the development of its root
system during times of drought, a study has revealed.
The results offer an insight into the
little understood biology of roots and could help breeding
effort to improve drought tolerance, say scientists.
Many of the world's key food and energy
crops belong to the grass family and are often grown in
drought-prone areas. The findings appear in the Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences.
New EU study shows negative
correlation between banning crop protection products and the
quality of produce
A new EU
impact study reveals that if more crop protection products
are removed from the market, quality food supplies will be
put at risk and unemployment will rise, costing the economy
billions of euros.
The study, carried out by the
consultancy Steward Redqueen and based on information
provided by EU member organisations (Copa-Cogeca), looks at
the cumulative impact in the EU of having a hazard based
legislative approach for assessing crop protection products,
instead of a risk based one.
Farming UK, 10 July 2016
facility sets sights on advances in science
are marking the opening of the first fully automated DNA
production facility in the UK. The Edinburgh Genome
Foundry will design, build and test large sections of DNA –
the building blocks of life – using large-scale robotic
at the facility are seeking to create and modify long
strands of DNA that can be used to equip cells or organisms
with new or improved functions.
Its products could lead to advances
such as programming stem cells for use in personalised
medicines, developing bacteria that can detect disease in
the gut, or altering the DNA of biofuel crops to enable a
8 July 2016
'Bitter blow’ after Defra rejects
second neonics request
The NFU has expressed its deep
disappointment after Defra rejected its second request for
growers to use neonicotinoids on oilseed rape crops this
The union submitted a revised application
for a derogation to allow growers to use Cruiser OSR and
Modesto seed treatments on oilseed rape crops in English
counties considered to be “hotspots” for cabbage stem flea
beetle (CSFB) attacks.
The second application was narrower than
the first, which requested a derogation to cover 33% of
England’s OSR area. However, in a statement released on
Tuesday (5 July), Defra said it had turned down the latest
request after following advice from the government’s
independent adviser on science related to pesticides.
Farmers Weekly, 5 July 2016
Science ‘needs free movement to
A leading scientist has said UK science
will suffer unless any post-Brexit agreement allows the free
movement of people. Prof Sir Paul Nurse said the country's
research was facing its biggest threat in living memory. He
added that researchers had to have a big voice in
negotiations with the EU.
But Leave campaigners say the UK should
be able to negotiate a deal to continue to receive European
funding and still curb overall immigration.
British science was one of the biggest
winners from EU funding. And so it is among those that have
most to lose. UK universities receive 10% of their research
funding from the EU, amounting to just over £1bn a year.
Could ancient wheat be the future of food?
Researchers believe untapped consumer markets exist for
ancient foods such as einkorn, emmer, and spelt, which fed
large swaths of the world's population for thousands of
years but disappeared almost completely during the rise of
industrial farming and the green revolution.
In an Opinion
published in Trends
in Plant Science,
two plant breeders argue that the consumer demand in the US
and Europe for high-quality, healthy food specialties
presents an opportunity to reintroduce ancient wheat
varieties and other plant species by creating "farm to fork"
supply chains that satisfy consumer demand; provide niche
markets for small farmers, millers, and bakers; and increase
Seedquest, 28 June 2016
Dramatic Brexit vote spells huge
uncertainty for UK agriculture
Industry leaders have called on the
government to provide a clear direction for British
agriculture after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
For more than 40 years, UK farmers have
relied on subsidies from the EU’s common agricultural policy
(CAP) and significant export markets in Europe with free
access to 500 million consumers.
But the dramatic outcome of the referendum
has created huge uncertainty about the future of farm
support, regulation and access to the single market and
migrant labour, which UK agriculture heavily depends on.
Farmers Weekly, 24 June 2016
projects look at satellites' role in future farming
The UK’s environment research council
NERC has funded five new projects to explore and develop new
ways to improve sustainable food production using satellite
technologies. The projects were awarded following a
'Satellites to improve agri-food systems' competition,
funded by Innovate UK and NERC.
Announcing the results of the
competition, NERC said an increasing world population,
changing diets in developing countries and the shift towards
more urban populations are all putting an increasing strain
on the world's food supplies. Satellite technology and
increased use of data are already helping to increase
agricultural productivity and will increasingly help farmers
to manage their land in the most environmentally sustainable
Farming Online, 24 June 2016
Scientists hungry to deliver food
system paradigm shift
Eight universities in northern England
have joined forces to form a scientific powerhouse at the
launch of an international food research programme.
The N8 AgriFood partnership will be
centred on three themes: sustainable production;
strengthening supply chains; and improving health.
It is hoped that the five-year partnership
will contribute to a "paradigm shift" in the UK food system.
The £16m scheme was launched at a two-day conference in
Manchester this week.
New crop varieties 'can't keep up
with global warming'
Crops yields around the world could fall
within a decade unless action is taken to speed up the
introduction of new varieties. A study says temperatures are
rising faster than the development of crop varieties that
can cope with a warmer world.
In Africa, researchers found that it can
take 10-30 years before farmers can grow a new breed of
maize. By the time these new crops are planted, they face a
warmer environment than they were developed in.
The scientists behind the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change,
looked closely at the impact of temperature rises on crop
duration - that's the length of time between planting and
They found that in a warmer world
durations will be shorter meaning these varieties will have
less time to accumulate biomass and yields could be
£2.5m futuristic farming facility to
open at James Hutton Institute
establish a £2.5m futuristic farming facility at the James
Hutton Institute’s site in Invergowrie near Dundee have been
predicted that the collaboration with Intelligent Growth
Solutions (IGS) will provide a better understanding of the
future potential of vertical farming, and give real insight
into the efficiencies, cost savings and range of crops that
can be grown.
The purpose-built facility, costing
£2.5m will be the first in the UK to house automated growth
towers for vertical, indoor farming.
UK, 20 June 2016
highlights wider political threat to EU farm chemicals – NFU
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the
re-authorisation of glyphosate has set a dangerous precedent
for the numerous active ingredients up for renewal in the
coming years, the NFU has warned.
Hundreds of active ingredients will
need to go through the EU approval process over the next 15
years, including 41 over the next 12 months.
A quarter of the crop protection
toolbox in Europe could be withdrawn from the market before
the 2018 harvest if reauthorisations are complicated by
political issues, the NFU’s analysis showed.
Farmers Guardian, 15 June 2016
Conservatives demand rethink of GM crops ban
A review of the controversial ban on GM
crops has been demanded by the Scottish Conservatives just
hours after the Government appointed a new chief scientific
Tory farming spokesman, Peter Chapman
MSP called on the SNP to ditch its “anti-science” approach
which led to the Government’s GM ruling last year and
instead make decisions based on evidence rather than
Professor Sheila Rowan was appointed to
the position of chief scientific officer earlier this week
after the post had lain vacant for 18 months. Mr Chapman
said it was time for a reasoned debate on GM crop
Press and Journal, 13 June 2016
Nobel prize winners warn leaving EU
poses 'risk' to science
Leaving the EU poses a "key risk" to
British science, a group of 13 Nobel prize-winning
scientists have warned.
The group, which includes Peter Higgs,
who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson particle, and
geneticist Sir Paul Nurse, say losing EU funding would put
UK research "in jeopardy".
"Inside the EU, Britain helps steer the
biggest scientific powerhouse in the world", the group
BBC News, 11 June 2016
Breakthrough on GM rice will help feed the world
A strain of
genetically modified rice that promises 50 per cent greater
yield and uses significantly less fertiliser has been
developed by British scientists.
It is hoped that
their research will lead to a wave of more efficient staple
crops to cope with rising food demand.
shown in field trials in China that a particular protein
found naturally in rice helps it to access more of the
nitrogen in soil or fertiliser.
The Times, 10 June 2016
Surprising global origins for
regional food favourites
Italy's tomatoes and Thailand's potent
chillies, although closely associated with these nations,
originate from elsewhere, a study shows. The assessment of
more that 150 key food crops shows how agriculture and diets
rely on crops from other regions. The authors say the
results highlight the interdependence of food systems and
the need for a united effort to ensure its resilience to
The research by an international team of
scientists assessed the diet and crop production of 177
counties, which accounted for 98% of the world's population.
The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
EU Parliament calls for technological
and innovative solutions for farming
voted on two own-initiative reports: 'Technological
solutions for sustainable agriculture' from Conservative MEP
Anthea McIntyre, and 'Enhancing innovation and economic
development in future European farm management' from Liberal
MEP Jan Huitema.
The reports call for innovative and
technological solutions in agriculture policy and underline
the importance of innovative technologies in ensuring
competitiveness and sustainability for European agriculture.
Farming UK, 7 June 2016
Insect-dispensing eco-drones set to join battle against crop
Researchers from the University of
Southern Denmark, Aarhus University and technology firm
Ecobotix are working on a device said to be able to disperse
natural insect predators to tackle aphids and other pests.
With their tanks filled with ladybirds,
predatory mites and parasitic wasps, the drones will fly
over fields and spread the insects precisely where pests are
According to associate professor Søren
Wiatr Borg from the University’s Institute of Technology and
Innovation, work is well underway with developing the
drone’s spreader to ensure the insects land safely.
Farmers Guardian, 6 June 2016
EU nations refuse to back new license
for glyphosate weed-killer
EU nations refused to back a limited
extension of the herbicide glyphosate's use on Monday,
threatening withdrawal of Monsanto's Roundup and other
weed-killers from shelves if no decision is reached by the
end of the month.
Contradictory findings on the
carcinogenic risks of the chemical have thrust it into the
center of a dispute among EU and U.S. politicians,
regulators and researchers.
The EU executive - after failing to win
support in two meetings earlier this year for a proposal to
renew the license for glyphosate for up to 15 years - had
offered a 12 to 18 month extension to allow time for further
Reuters, 6 June 2016
UN focuses on technology in farming
sustainable agriculture requires a renewed focus on
innovation and investment in research, technology and
capacity development, the UN's Food and Agriculture
Organisation said. FAO Director General José Graziano da
Silva spoke at a meeting of agriculture ministers of the G20
in China: "ICT helps in the monitoring of crop growth,
utilization of new techniques, field management and
He added that
it has also become an essential tool for improving people’s
livelihoods and welfare while advancing social justice and
ensure equal access to opportunities, particularly in rural
Telecommunication tools have the
potential to provide internet access for millions of people
and connect farmers with digital agriculture. This includes
the use of mobile phones to report animal disease outbreaks,
which is one area FAO has been supporting in recent years.
UK, 6 June 2016
Innovation needed from research
institute to farmyard – McIlveen
Given the challenges facing the
agriculture industry, the importance of research and
innovation have never been greater, Agriculture, Environment
and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen today told a
special event to mark the tenth anniversary of the Agri-Food
and Bioscience Institute (AFBI).
peaking at the Open Meeting at AFBI
Hillsborough, Minister McIlveen said: “Much has changed over
the last ten years but one constant has been the importance
of innovation, pushing the boundaries of what is possible
and delivering improved outcomes.”
Farming Life, 4 June 2016
MPs demand policy changes to improve
A cross-party group of MPs has called for
action to protect soil health, warning that some of the most
productive land in England is at risk of becoming
unprofitable within a generation because of soil erosion and
loss of carbon.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC)
has published a report which calls for a review of
cross-compliance rules and a rethink about the subsidy
regime which encourages the growth of maize for anaerobic
digestion (AD) plants.
The report said that the government relied
on the cross-compliance rules associated with the Basic
Payment Scheme (BPS) to regulate agricultural soil health,
but crucial elements such as structure and biology were not
assessed at all.
Farmers Weekly, 2 June 2016
New blood test
for the detection of bovine TB
A new blood test to detect bTB has been
developed by a team at The University of Nottingham.
Researchers have used this new method
to show cattle diagnosed with bovine tuberculosis (bTB) have
detectable levels of the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M.
bovis) in their blood, causing the disease.
This new blood test detects very low levels of mycobacteria
in blood using a bacteriophage-based technique.
Farmers Guardian, 1 June 2016
Bayer partners with aerospace company
to utilize space technology for agricultural products
chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer has partnered with
Planetary Resources, an aerospace tech company, as part of a
deal to utilize satellite images to develop agricultural
use information from the crop-specific images to develop
agricultural products as part of its Digital Farming
Bayer said the data can improve how
farmers time their irrigation systems or assess their soil’s
water-holding capacity, for example. The idea is to optimize
how crops are grown, saving both time and money for farmers.
UK, 31 May 2016
Scientists discover missing link in
plant nitrogen fixation process
the John Innes Centre have discovered an important component
in the process of nitrogen fixation in plants. They have
identified a key protein that facilitates the movement of
calcium in plant cells.
This movement of calcium signals to
the plant that nitrogen-fixing bacteria are close by and
triggers the development of nodules on its roots to house
these bacteria. Nitrogen is the most abundant gas in the
atmosphere and legumes are able to take nitrogen out of the
air and incorporate it into their cells.
Farming UK, 27 May 2016
Cattle drugs could fuel climate
change, study suggests
Dosing farm animals with antibiotics
increases greenhouse gas emissions from cow dung, research
suggests. Scientists say the drugs boost methane production
in cowpats - apparently by favouring antibiotic-resistant,
methane-producing organisms in the gut.
Antibiotics also change the microbes which
inhabit dung beetles, although apparently with no adverse
effects. The researchers say it’s proof that antibiotic use
on farms has unintended, cascading effects on the
Royal Society calls for review of
European GM ban
The ban on GM crops by European countries
should be reassessed, the president of UK science body the
Royal Society says.
Prof Venki Ramakrishnan said the science
of genetic modification had been misunderstood by the public
and it was time to set the record straight.
He said it was inappropriate to ban an
"entire technology" and products should be assessed on a
UK farmers to cut antibiotic use to
combat drug resistance
A new taskforce to reduce the use of antibiotics
in farming in the UK is
being set up in response to government concerns on the growing
resistance of diseases to antibiotic medicines.
The alliance for the Responsible Use of
Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) said it would work with
organisations including farming leaders, food companies and
government to find ways to replace antibiotic use where
possible, and reduce it where not.
The Guardian, 19 May 2016
GM food safe to
eat, say world’s leading scientists
Genetically modified food is safe for
human consumption and there is no conclusive evidence that
it poses a risk to wildlife, according to the most
comprehensive review of research to date.
Decades of claims by campaign groups
that GM crops can cause cancer, kidney disease or autism, or
harm birds and insects, have been dismissed by the National
Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The US advisory body, which includes
more than 300 Nobel prize-winning scientists, concluded that
GM technology had helped farmers to increase yields by
protecting crops against pests and weeds.
The Times, 18 May 2016
designed for use on Mars could help improve crop yields on
A system developed originally to
explore Mars has been transformed into an agricultural
monitoring device for testing the quality of soil. It has
the potential to reduce the environmental impact of farming.
The device consists of a mobile rover
platform with a robotic arm which carries a soil sensing
It is based on technology developed by
STFC’s RAL Space and will be used in a new project being run
by a team at the University of Strathclyde.
Farming UK, 16 May 2016
Quit EU to embrace technology and
feed world, says Paterson
The EU has become a “museum of
world farming” and the UK must leave it to embrace new
technology, increase food production and help the
environment, according to former Defra secretary Owen
Mr Paterson, a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign,
delivered his verdict at a Brexit debate hosted by the Crop
Protection Association (CPA) in London.
The North Shropshire MP, who was sacked
as Defra secretary in July 2014 after two years in the post,
said the UK inside the common agricultural policy (CAP) had
seen food self-sufficiency tumble to 62%. Meanwhile, the EU
was “sitting by smugly importing food from 35 million
hectares of somebody else’s land”.
Farmers Weekly, 13 May 2016
GM potato field trials get the
Defra has given the green light for
a series of GM potato field trials by the Sainsbury
Laboratory in Norfolk.
The laboratory will conduct field trials of GM potato
crops on a designated trial site at the Norwich Research
Park between 2016 and 2019.
The trials are part of a project to
develop a Maris Piper potato that is blight and nematode
resistant, bruises less and produces less acrylamide when
cooked at high temperatures.
Farmers Weekly, 12 May 2016
Scientists have estimated that there are
390,900 plants known to science. The new tally is part of a report carried out by the
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
However, the report warns that 21% of
plants are at risk of extinction, with threats including
climate change, habitat loss, disease and invasive species.
BBC News, 10 May 2016
Climate change 'will help and hurt
Higher levels of
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase water-use
efficiency in crops and also boost yield losses due to
climate change, according to a new NASA study, published in
the Nature Climate Change.
The study shows some compensation for
the adverse impacts of temperature extremes caused by
increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse
gases. Higher levels of carbon dioxide affect crops in two
important ways: they boost crop yields, and they reduce the
amount of water crops
Farming UK, 9 May 2016
New breeding techniques provide
opportunities for more sustainable agriculture
Products from new breeding techniques
provide major opportunities for making agriculture more
them a useful addition to common breeding practice,
especially for crops where the desired variety improvements
are currently very time-consuming, such as potatoes and
These findings are contained in a literature review by leading
agricultural university Wageningen, published in the
in Plant Science.
Farming UK, 3 May 2016
Brexit would spell uncertainty for
farmers, warns AIC
British farmers would face an uncertain
future if the UK left the European Union, says the trade
association which represents 250 agricultural suppliers.
Too many questions remained unanswered
when it came to supporting Brexit, warned the Agricultural
Industries Confederation (AIC), which represents £6.5bn in
“There is a clear lack of information on
strategy and desired outcomes from both sides,” says a
policy paper published by the confederation.
Farmers Weekly, 1 May 2016
Banned pesticides 'not equally
harmful' to bees
The largest field study so far in to the
group of pesticides called "neonicotinoids" has concluded
that each acts differently on the brains of the bees.
One of the chemicals widely considered as
being the most toxic wasn't shown to affect bees at a level
found in the countryside.
However other "neonics" were shown to
cause significant harm to bumblebees. The results of the
study are published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Consumers underestimate severity of
global food challenge
Research findings released today show
significant levels of misunderstanding about the realities
of food production, namely that only 4% of adults surveyed
in Europe correctly estimate that world food production must
increase by 60% by 2050.
Results of the survey conducted by YouGov Plc suggest that
European adults (UK, Germany, Spain, Poland) underestimate
the potential severity of the world’s food supply problem
and the link between productivity and prices.
They also underestimate the role that
pesticides can play in supplying affordable food to the
consumers. In fact only 31% of adults surveyed think that
farmers’ inability to protect their crops against diseases
and crop infestation is a factor directly linked to
increasing the cost of the world’s food supply.
Farm Business, 28 April 2016
New gene-detecting technology brings
resilient superwheat closer
Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC)
and The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) have pioneered a new
gene-detecting technology which if deployed correctly could
lead to the creation of a new elite variety of wheat with
durable resistance to disease.
The new technology, called 'MutRenSeq',
accurately pinpoints the location of disease resistance
genes in large plant genomes, reducing the time it takes to
clone these genes in wheat from 5 to 10 years down to just
Effective use of these resistance genes in wheat could
increase global yields and vastly reduce the need for
Farming UK, 26 April 2016
field trials of GM fish oil plants
Scientists at Rothamsted Research have
been given the go ahead to carry out a field trial with
genetically modified (GM) camelina plants.
The trial, based at the facility’s test
field in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, will assess whether GM
Camelina sativa plants are able to make significant
quantities of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
(LC-PUFAs) and astaxanthin in the seed of the plant.
Fish, like humans, do not produce these
oils but accumulate them through their diet in the wild or
through fishmeal and fish oil in farmed fish. The oils have
been shown to benefit human health and help protect against
coronary heart diseases.
Farmers Guardian, 25 April 2016
on ash dieback
UK scientists have identified the
country’s first ash tree that shows tolerance to ash
dieback, raising the possibility of using selective breeding
to develop strains of trees that are tolerant to the
The findings, which could help ensure
ash trees will thrive in UK woodlands, have today (22 April)
been published in a report co-funded by Defra and the
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Ash dieback is spreading throughout the
UK and, in one woodland in Norfolk, a great number of trees
are infected. However, there are exceptions which
demonstrate very low levels of infection by the ash dieback
fungus and here researchers have identified one tree,
nicknamed ‘Betty’, as having a strong tolerance to the
Defra / BBSRC, 22 April 2016
Concern over Brexit's impact on
The UK science community draws vital
benefits from EU membership and could lose influence in the
event of an exit, says a House of Lords report.
"Restrictive" regulations could block
cutting-edge research, the peers said. But UK researchers
placed a high value on opportunities for collaboration
afforded by EU membership, they added.
EU referendum: NFU backs staying in
Farmers' interests are best served by
remaining in the European Union, the National Farmers' Union
It passed a resolution following an
"overwhelming" vote in favour of staying in the EU, which it
said was based on the "balance of existing evidence".
The union - which has 55,000 members in
England and Wales - announced its position after a vote by
BBC News, 18 April 2016
Space seeds on
their way to schools
Thousands of schools in the UK will be
receiving seeds that have been in space with Tim Peake. The
British astronaut has launched a mass experiment to grow the
seeds of the salad leaf rocket.
They want to compare them with seeds that
have not been in space to see if there are any differences.
The experiment is being run by the Royal Horticultural Society's
campaign for school gardening and
the UK Space Agency.
14 April 2016
Land area planted with GM crops drops
for first time in two decades
For the first
time since the introduction of genetically modified crops in
1996, the total area planted with GM plants fell last year.
Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA),
which carries out the most authoritative annual survey of
biotech crops worldwide, said the 1 per cent decrease
reduced the total area from 181.5m hectares in 2014 to
According to Randy Hautea, ISAAA
global co-ordinator, the downturn after 19 consecutive years
of growth did not reflect any rejection of GM technology by
farmers. “It is principally due to an overall decrease in
total crop hectarage associated with low prices for
commodity crops in 2015,” he said.
The decline was concentrated in
industrialised countries where GM crop cover was down 3 per
cent. In developing countries it rose 1 per cent. More than
half of all GM crops (54 per cent) are grown in Latin
America, Asia and Africa.
Financial Times, 13 April 2016
could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80%
The world's soils could store an extra
8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, helping to limit the
impacts of climate change, according to scientists at the
Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
The researchers said adopting the
latest technologies and sustainable land use practices on a
global scale could allow more emissions to be stored in
farmland and more ‘natural’ wild spaces.
The researchers estimate that growing
crops with deeper root systems, using charcoal-based
composts and applying sustainable agriculture practices
could help soils retain the equivalent of around 80% of
annual emissions released by burning fossils fuels.
Farming Online, 7 April 2016
Food waste key in emissions cuts
Reducing food waste and changing the way
people consume calories will help deliver a sustainable food
system and reduce emissions, a study suggests.
The global demand for food could more
than double by the middle of the century, yet an estimated
one third of produce is lost or wasted each year.
By cutting this waste will help food
security and reducing agriculture's climate burden, the
researchers added. The findings appear in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
New report lays out Brexit
implications for farmers
move towards a more liberal trading policy by the UK
following Brexit would result in a significant reduction in
farmgate incomes across the livestock sectors, particularly
if support is cut, according to a report commissioned by the
a more protectionist approach would see a boost in farmgate
prices as imports became a less attractive proposition, the
report by a Dutch research institute concluded. However, the
biggest factor when it comes to farm incomes would be the
approach the UK Government took to farm support.
NFU commissioned researchers at Wageningen University to
consider the impact on UK agriculture of nine possible trade
and farm support scenarios open to the UK Government in the
event of Brexit.
Farmers Guardian, 6 April 2016
West Suffolk estate set to become
potato research hub
Suffolk estate is set to become a Regional Research &
Demonstration Hub for potato growers and suppliers, thanks
to funding from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative.
coordinated and co-funded by the Agriculture and
Horticulture Development Board’s Potatoes Division (AHDB
Potatoes), has been awarded £109,273 and will be located at
Elveden Farms in West Suffolk, and will provide a unique
opportunity for the industry to see the latest research
innovations and practical science in action.
The site will promote improved
business and agricultural productivity and resource
management, alongside providing a space for knowledge
exchange and collaborative working.
UK, 6 April 2016
EU policymakers accused of
‘disregarding the science’ as key pesticides under threat
politicians and industry leaders have called on EU
policymakers to adopt a science-based approach as efforts to
restrict the use of glyphosate and neonicotinoids are
EU policymakers have been accused of
‘disregarding the evidence and science’ as the future of
vital crop protection products hangs in the balance.
The European Parliament’s Environment
overwhelmingly last week to reject European Commission
proposals to renew the licence for glyphosate for another 15
years, at least until the European Commission has carried
out an independent review into its safety. Separately, the
French National Assembly recently voted to ban the use of
all neonicotinoid insecticides from September 1, 2018.
Farmers Guardian, 1 April 2016
Action needed to boost ‘weak’
Britain’s horticulture sector is ‘weak’ and must be rebuilt
in order to reduce the food trade gap and benefit public
health, a report has found.
The Food Research Collaboration (FRC)
has called on the Government to put the sector at the
forefront of its forthcoming 25-year food and farming plan.
The report, Horticulture
in the UK: potential for meeting dietary guideline demands,
paints a sober picture of a mismatch between supply and
demand in the UK, particularly in light of public health
advice to eat more fruit and vegetables.
Statistics show from 1985-2014, there
has been a decline of 27 per cent for fruit and vegetables
combined. The area growing vegetables has fallen by 26 per
cent and the area growing fruit by 35 per cent.
Farmers Guardian, 30 March 2016
Plant-growing season now a month
longer than in 1990
The growing season for plants has become a month longer
than it was a few decades ago, Met Office figures show. In
the last 10 years, the growing season, measured according to
the central England temperature daily record, which
stretches back hundreds of years, has been on average 29
days longer than in the period 1961-1990, the data show.
And while more of the year is warm enough
for plants to grow, there has also been a decline in the
number of frosty days in recent decades, the Met
The Guardian, 24 March 2016
Defra farm strategy delayed until
after EU referendum
Long-awaited government plans to
“grow more, buy more and sell more British food” are
unlikely to be revealed before summer – and perhaps not
The 25-year strategy for food and farming is unlikely to
be published before the EU referendum on 23 June, said Defra
food and farming director Sarah Church.
Ms Church was speaking to industry
leaders and commentators at a Westminster Food & Nutrition
Forum event on Tuesday (22 March).
Farmers Weekly, 23 March 2016
Go wild to protect food security,
More needs to be done to ensure wild
relatives of our key food crops are conserved for future
generations, a study has said.
Researchers are concerned the genetic
diversity of these vital plants are not being adequately
stored in gene banks.
They say characteristics such as drought
or heat resilience could be lost forever unless action is
taken to preserve these genetic traits. The findings have
been published in the journal Nature
21 March 2016
£48m devoted to farming research
projects in Scotland
The Scottish government has announced
details of multimillion-pound projects aimed at improving
sustainable food and farming production.
Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard
Lochhead said the government has allocated more than £48m in
the 2016-17 financial year to strategic scientific research
in the area of rural affairs, food and the environment.
Research institutes that focus on advances
in crop science, animal welfare, food security and climate
change are to benefit from the funding.
Farmers Weekly, 21 March 2016
£17.5m funding secured to help
develop precision farming
More than £17m of government funding has
been secured over the next four years to create a global
hub for agricultural engineering and precision farming, as
part of the government’s UK strategy for agricultural
The Agri-EPI Centre aims to become a
world-leading centre for excellence for the livestock,
arable, aquaculture and horticulture sectors.
The centre will bring together expertise
in research and industry, as well as data-gathering capacity
in all areas of farming.
Farmers Weekly, 13 March 2016
EU exit threat to UK food security,
A major restructuring of agricultural
policy will be needed to maintain food security if the UK
leaves the European Union, academics have warned.
The UK’s forthcoming in-out
referendum on 23 June will have “momentous significance” for
the country’s food system, says a report by Food Research Collaboration.
the UK and the EU: Brexit or Bremain?,
the briefing paper argues that country must “wake up to the
enormity of unravelling 43 years of co-negotiated food
Farmers Weekly, 8 March 2016
Climate deadline looms for African
Researchers have produced a timescale of
how projected climate change is set to alter the face of
agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Climate change is widely projected to
have a significant adverse impact on food security if no
adaptation measures are taken, they explain.
In their study, the team provides timings
of the "transformations" needed to help minimise these
impacts. The findings have been published in the journal
Nature Climate Change.
7 March 2016
Reduced crop productivity and
negative changes in diet a likely scenario of climate change
change could kill more than 500,000 adults in 2050 worldwide
due to changes in diets and bodyweight from reduced crop
productivity, according to new estimates from the
University's Oxford Martin Future of Food Programme.
published in The Lancet, is the strongest evidence
yet that climate change could have damaging consequences for
food production and health worldwide.
Farming UK, 7 March 2016
£70m plan to ‘transform livestock
A £70m innovation centre aims to bring
together researchers and the industry to transform the
productivity of the UK livestock sector. The Centre of Innovation Excellence
in Livestock (CIELivestock) will set up
state-of-the-art facilities across the UK, providing the
livestock sector with world-beating access to research.
It will bring together the best in
breeding, animal health, biotechnology, feeding and genomics
with a goal to generate £12 for each £1 spent on research.
The project is being backed by
£31.7m in funding from the government’s Department for
Business Innovation and Skills. Additional funding is coming
from the industry and research institutions.
Farmers Weekly, 1 March 2016
EU exit 'risks British science'
Prof Sir Paul Nurse has said that UK
research would suffer if the country were to leave the EU.
A British exit would make it harder to get funding for
science and sell "future generations short", the Nobel Prize
Nurse, who is director of The Francis Crick Institute and
the former president of the Royal Society, believes those
who campaign for a "Brexit" are jeopardising "the long-term
future of the UK for short-term political advantage".
But a group of scientists arguing to leave
the EU counters that UK research would not be adversely
affected. They say British institutions would receive
similar amounts of European funding as they do now. A
national referendum on the UK's participation in the
European Union is set for 23 June.
27 February 2016
sign crop science agreement with Indian government
UK research institutes including the John Innes Centre (JIC) and
University of East Anglia (UEA) have
signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian
government’s department of biotechnology.
The agreement will set the scene for a
collaborative approach to crop science, with the government
and research institutes looking into increasing crop yields
and improving disease and drought resistance in crops.
In addition to JIC and UEA,
representatives from the University of Cambridge, NIAB in
Cambridge and Rothamsted Research have also signed the
Farming Online, 25 February 2016
Researchers make advance in fight
against deadly pig virus
team at The Roslin Institute used advanced genetic
techniques to produce pigs that are potentially resilient to
African Swine Fever – a highly contagious disease that kills
up to two-thirds of infected animals.
The new pigs
carry a version of a gene that is usually found in warthogs
and bush pigs, which researchers believe may stop them from
becoming ill from the infection. African Swine Fever is
spread by ticks. When standard farmed pigs are infected,
they quickly become ill and die, but warthogs and bush pigs
show no disease symptoms when infected.
The researchers used a gene-editing
technique to modify individual letters of the pigs’ genetic
code. By changing just five letters in their RELA gene, they
converted it to the allele that is found in the warthog.
UK, 22 February 2016
Fungi from goats' guts could lead to
The legendary abilities of goats and
sheep to digest a wide range of inedible materials could
help scientists produce cheaper biofuels.
Researchers say fungi from the stomachs
of these animals produce flexible enzymes that can break
down a wide variety of plant materials.
The scientists say that in tests, the
fungi performed as well as the best engineered attempts from
industry. The study has been published in
the journal, Science.
BBC News, 19 February 2016
Eustice calls for scientific approach
to new gene editing technologies
As the European Commission considers
whether new plant breeding technologies like gene editing
should be classified as GM, George Eustice has called for it
to rely on science rather than lawyers.
Farming Minister George Eustice has
made a plea for crucial regulatory decisions on new
ground-breaking plant breeding techniques to be based on
science rather than the whims of EU lawyers.
Speaking at the John Innes Institute,
Mr Eustice highlighted the work being done there and
elsewhere on techniques like CRISPR and Cisgenesis, which
could deliver major benefits for growers in future.
Farmers Guardian, 16 February 2016
GMs and lab-grown meat ‘future of UK
UK agriculture will have undergone
a “green revolution” by 2050 with farmers growing
genetically modified crops that are self-fertilising, pest
and drought resistant, claims a think tank study.
The combination of self-fertilisation and pest resistance
along with crops which are saline resistant and heat and
cold tolerant will “significantly increase the yield per
acre of many food crops”. In addition, new strains will be
developed through genetic engineering that have higher
edible yields a plant – and each modified plant will produce
more food than previous strains.
These are some of the predictions put forward for
agriculture in a new “futurology” study entitled The
UK and the World in 2050,
published by the Adam Smith Institute.
Farmers Weekly, 16 February 2016
Major company shows interest in
Scientists who developed a high-protein
pea which could replace soya as an animal feed say a major
company has expressed an interest in the project.
The pea, which helps livestock absorb
more protein from their diet, was developed by researchers
at the John Innes Centre, Norwich.
It has the potential to cut costs for
farmers because livestock need to eat fewer of the new peas
to obtain the same amount of protein as standard peas.
Farmers Weekly, 15 February 2016
Boost for UK
crop science as NIAB and EMR join forces
Two leading UK crop research institutes
are joining forces to create a major new centre for applied
crop science and innovation.
East Malling Research (EMR) has become
part of the NIAB group. This alliance, bringing together
internationally renowned expertise in crop genetics,
agronomy, environmental and data science, will strengthen
NIAB’s ambition to lead the UK in crop innovation. EMR
brings international leadership in top fruit and soft fruit
research, complementing NIAB’s scientific expertise in
arable crops, potatoes and ornamentals.
Both organisations have a focus on
industry-facing, applied research aimed at addressing the
challenges facing UK and global agriculture. The partnership
will strengthen the UK’s crop science infrastructure and
capabilities, with the pooling of complementary research
expertise, and a shared commitment to the translation and
application of science to support crop production in the UK
NIAB, 9 February 2016
Satellites to build farming’s first
UK digital cropping map
The first ever digital map of the UK’s
cropping areas has been made using satellites, as part of a
long-term environmental study.
Researchers at the Centre for Ecology and
Hydrology (CEH) have been working with with Remote Sensing
Applications Consultants (RSAC) to produce “Land Cover plus:
The project combines the CEH’s existing UK
land cover map with new analysis of radar satellite data to
map arable crops and grassland at field level. Over the next
three years crop maps will be updated annually to build up
rotational cropping information for the whole of the UK.
Farmers Weekly, 5 February 2016
Japanese to open giant lettuce farm
run by robots
A Japanese company is starting
construction of a giant lettuce “farm” which will be run
almost exclusively by robots, cutting its labour
requirements by half. The development highlights the
potential for new technology to transform agricultural
practices, particularly in countries struggling with labour
Spread, a vegetable company, which
supplies more than 2,000 supermarkets in Japan, already
operates a plant producing 21,000 head of lettuce a day at
Kameoka in Kyoto. It has emerged the company will shortly
start construction on a plant at Keihanna, producing 30,000
head of lettuce a day, where every part of its operation
other than the planting of the seed will be carried out by
Farmers Weekly, 2 February 2016
Boosting food crop yields 'can
Increasing crop yields could help meet
the rising global demand for more food while sparing land to
protect biodiversity, a study has suggested.
The expansion of agriculture is deemed to
be one of the main drivers for global habitat and
Researchers from the UK and Brazil say
that boosting yields could help - but only if policies such
as incentives or land-zoning are implemented as well.
Their findings have been published in the journal
Man admits stealing patented corn
seeds from US fields to take to China
A Chinese man pleaded guilty in a US court
on Wednesday to stealing patent-protected corn seed from
agribusiness giants Monsanto and DuPont to take back to China for
Mo Hailong, 46, participated in a plot to
steal inbred corn seeds from the two US companies so that
his then employer, Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group, could
use them in its own seed business, the US Department of
Mo “admitted to participating in the theft
of inbred – or parent – corn seeds from fields in the
southern district of Iowa for the purpose of transporting
those seeds to China,” the department said in a statement.
The Guardian, 28 January 2016
'Technological progress is the key to
productivity and sustainability in agriculture'
Technological progress is the key to
productivity and sustainability in agriculture, a new report
to the European Parliament stresses.
mechanical and increasingly digital advances represent the
only realistic means of meeting the challenges of feeding a
growing global population while protecting the environment,
according to Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre, the report's
Entitled Technological Solutions for
Sustainable Agriculture in the EU, the report highlights how
so called precision farming can cut the use of pesticides,
fertilisers while improving soil fertility and boosting
UK, 26 January 2016
SRUC to build new ‘world class’
poultry research centre
Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is to
move its poultry research unit from Ayrshire to Midlothian,
creating a “state of the art” centre in the process.
The new facility will be built on the
Easter Bush Estate, just outside Edinburgh, which is already
home to most of the college’s animal and veterinary
scientists, over the next two years.
SRUC’s poultry team undertakes a large
amount of research for both government and private concerns,
with particular focus on avian-related nutrition, welfare
and the study of disease.
Farmers Weekly, 25 January 2016
Fatty acids from GM oilseed crops could
replace fish oil
Oil from genetically modified (GM)
oilseed crops could replace fish oil
as a primary source of the beneficial Omega 3 fatty acid EPA
– according to new research from the University of East
Anglia in collaboration with Rothamsted Research and the
University of Stirling.
BBSRC-funded researchers at the University
of East Anglia studied the effect in mice of consuming feed
enriched with oil from glasshouse grown genetically
engineered Camelina sativa, developed at the
The team examined levels of EPA in various
organs in the body such as the liver, as well as its effect
on the expression of genes key for regulating the way the
body processes fats. The results show that the benefits were
similar to those derived from fish oils.
BBSRC, 21 January 2016
Reducing meat consumption could actually
harm environment, study finds
Reducing meat consumption may not be as
environmentally friendly as campaigners have claimed.
The findings of a new report have shown
that increasing demand for meat provides an incentive for
farmers to maintain grassland and recover degraded pastures.
Researchers from the University of
Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Brazilian
Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), found reducing
beef production in the Brazilian Cerrado could actually
increase global greenhouse gas emissions.
Farmers Guardian, 18 January 2016
GM free-for-all 'probably illegal'
Council's legal service has serious doubts about the
legality of controversial Commission plans to allow member
countries to ban the use of imported GM food and feed, as
such a move would not comply with European Union internal
market and world trade rules.
In a legal opinion distributed to
member countries, Council lawyers find major flaws in the
legal basis of the proposals. They cite a lack of specific
reasons to justify a ban at national level and say any
import restrictions would flout Europe's international trade
Farming UK, 18 January 2016
Agriculture courses see biggest leap
in new student numbers
subjects had the largest surge in popularity of all UK
university courses last year, according to new figures
released today by the Higher Education Statistics agency.
throughout the UK categorised as 'Agriculture and related
subjects' saw the biggest leaps in new student numbers at
both undergraduate (four per cent) and post graduate (29 per
cent) levels from 2013/14 to 2014/15.
The 29 per cent increase in
postgraduate agriculture students was leagues ahead of all
other advances, the closest being 10 per cent for subjects
allied to medicine.
Farming UK, 14 January 2016
New vision and
high level research strategy for UK Animal and Plant Health
BBSRC has published, on behalf of a
partnership of key UK research funders and policy makers, a
vision and high level research strategy for UK Animal and
Plant Health Research to 2020 and beyond.
In December 2014, Defra and the
Government Office for Science jointly published the report Animal
and Plant Health in the UK: Building our science capability,
which made the compelling case for a more coordinated
approach across public funders of animal and plant health
The new research vision and high level
strategy has been developed, with leadership from BBSRC, as
an early action towards delivering that joined up approach.
BBSRC, 13 January 2016
More than 50% of UK’s food and feed
More than half of the UK’s food and feed
is sourced from abroad, increasing the environmental impact
on other poorer countries, a study has found.
Researchers say the UK’s food
self-sufficiency has decreased substantially over recent
decades, as more food and animal feed are imported compared
with 25 years ago.
Published in the latest
Journal of the Royal Society Interface,
it also shows that the environmental impact of the UK’s food
is increasingly “outsourced” to other regions, including
South America, south-east Asia and the EU.
Weekly, 9 January 2016
investment to make British agriculture more competitive
Speaking at the Oxford Farming
Conference this week, agriculture secretary Liz Truss said
the government plans to increase capital funding in
agriculture by 12 per cent over the next five years to £2.7
billion. The investment includes doubling investment in
science and animal and plant health.
“We will invest in technology, digital
systems, growing our exports, world leading science,
protection against animal health and plant disease and flood
defences,” Mrs Truss said.
The agriculture secretary said that
British government will shortly be publishing a new
programme for Food and Farming for the Environment covering
the next 25 years, which will include decentralising
decision making in the Department of Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra) and cutting red tape for farmers.
Farming Online, 7 January 2016
inspire the public at Open Farm Sunday 2016
BBSRC has funded three new public
engagement projects to produce on-farm activities that will
inspire and educate people about the science behind farming
and food production. The activities will be used by farmers
and visiting scientists at LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday on 5 June
Open Farm Sunday, managed by LEAF
(Linking Environment And Farming) is the farming industry’s
annual open day where the public can find out how their food
is produced and the work farmers do to manage the
countryside. Since 2006, over 1,000 farmers across the UK
have opened their gates and welcomed over 1.5M people onto
farms across the UK.
Activities funded by BBSRC focus on
egg production and soils, as well as ‘whole farm’ science to
enable visitors to understand the importance of farming
within the context of food security and raise awareness of
how UK bioscience underpins the agricultural industry.
BBSRC, 7 January 2016
Increasing yields and rewilding ‘spared’ land could slash
GHG emissions by 80 per cent
farming industry could drastically reduce its greenhouse gas
emissions by 2050 if it increased farm yields and freed up
land for woodlands and wetlands.
A Cambridge University study said
the industry could meet the Government’s 80 per cent
emissions reduction if it expanded the area of natural
forests and wetlands to match its European neighbours.
However, this would require new polices
promoting both sustainable increases in farm yields and
sparing land for climate mitigation. Reducing meat
consumption and food waste will also be important, according
to the study published in the journal Nature Climate
Farmers Guardian, 4 January 2016