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

Group News

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


2015 Archive


2014 Archive


2013 Archive


2012 Archive


2011 Archive

2010 Archive

2009 Archive

2008 Archive

Science & Technology News


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 and internationally. more

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: Crops”.

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. more

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 shortages. 

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 robots. more

Farmers Weekly, 2 February 2016 

Boosting food crop yields 'can protect biodiversity'

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 biodiversity loss.

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 Science. more


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 commercial use.

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 Justice said.

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. more

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.

Genetic, 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 author.

Entitled Technological Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture in the EU, the report highlights how so called precision farming can cut the use of pesticides, water and fertilisers while improving soil fertility and boosting yields. more

Farming 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. more

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 Rothamsted Research.

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. more

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. more

Farmers Guardian, 18 January 2016 

GM free-for-all 'probably illegal'

The European 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 obligations. more

Farming UK, 18 January 2016 

Agriculture courses see biggest leap in new student numbers

Agri-food 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.

Courses 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. more

Farming UK, 14 January 2016 

New vision and high level research strategy for UK Animal and Plant Health Research published

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 research.

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. more

BBSRC, 13 January 2016

More than 50% of UK’s food and feed sourced overseas

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. more

Farmers Weekly, 9 January 2016 

Research 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. more

Farming Online, 7 January 2016

Farm-science to 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 2016.

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. more

BBSRC, 7 January 2016 

Increasing yields and rewilding ‘spared’ land could slash GHG emissions by 80 per cent

The 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 Change. more

Farmers Guardian, 4 January 2016 

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