NFU issues 'call to arms' on EU
The NFU is urging farmers to make their
views known to the European Commission about proposals that
could remove key pesticides from the market.
The Commission is currently consulting
on the definition of ‘Endocrine Disruptors’ a group of
chemicals that could be removed under changes to EU
In a recent
report, commissioned by the UK farming and agro-chemical
industry, farm business consultants Andersons concluded the
potential loss of pesticides from this and other EU
legislation could have a devastating impact on the UK
Guardian, 17 December 2014
discover ancient plant virus
Scientists from France's national
agricultural research institute (INRA) have described a
historical genus of plant virus, evidence of which is still
in the genetic information of some crop plants.
Last month, scientists at INRA
published information on a newly discovered genus of virus
in the Caulimoviridae family (which includes the
cauliflower mosaic virus, as well as other diseases that
still affect soybeans, grape vines, rice, tobacco and other
agricultural plants). The virus' existence was discovered by
comparing the genomes of flowering plants with other types
The new genus, which the INRA
researchers described in the journal Nature
Communications, was discovered using new scientific
knowledge and tools.
Farming Online, 16 December 2014
origins of agriculture help shape the future of food
Agricultural decisions made by our
ancestors more than 10,000 years ago could hold the key to
food security in the future, according to researchers at the
University of Sheffield.
Scientists, looking at why the first
arable farmers chose to domesticate some cereal crops and
not others, studied those that originated in the Fertile
Crescent, an arc of land in western Asia from the
Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.
They grew wild versions of what are now
staple foods like wheat and barley along with other grasses
from the region to identify the traits that make some plants
suitable for agriculture, including how much edible seed the
grasses produced and their architecture.
Farming Online, 12 December 2014
EU pesticide review could cost UK
The loss of agrochemical actives due to EU changes to
pesticide laws could cost the UK farming industry more than
£905m, according to an Agriculture and Horticulture
Development Board (AHDB) report.
The European Commission is working on a
definition of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which
have been linked to a range of serious illnesses. The
revision of pesticide approvals legislation could result in
a ban on key classes of crop protection products, such as
A report by levy body AHDB shows the
disastrous effect EU regulatory decisions could have on
farmers’ access to vital pesticides.
The loss of agrochemical actives as a result of recent EU
hazard-based assessment criteria has the potential to cost
UK agriculture more than £905m – or 10% of current farmgate
value, the AHDB report warns.
Weekly, 10 December 2014
Scientists 'fixed' evidence to ban
Research which claimed to prove
neonicotinoids were responsible for the decline in honeybee
populations has been called into question after a leaked
note suggested scientists had decided in advance to find
evidence to support a ban.
The note, which was seen by a journalist
from The Times, appeared to record a discussion
between four scientists about how to persuade regulators to
ban the chemicals.
It said the scientists agreed to select
authors to produce four papers and co-ordinate their
publication to ‘obtain the necessary policy change, to have
these pesticides banned’.
Guardian, 10 December 2014
Defra launches £4.5m sustainable
Defra has launched a £4.5m research project to investigate
ways to increase farm productivity while reducing negative
environmental effects. The
scheme will bring together expertise from across the farming
industry and research community to find ways to develop a
more sustainable farming sector for the future.
George Eustice said: “Supporting our farmers to become more
productive while also protecting and improving the UK
countryside is one of this government’s priorities. The
£4.5m we are giving to these research organisations will
help open up new opportunities for intensive, sustainable
farming; boosting our farmers’ output in a way that
safeguards the future of our environment.”
Weekly, 5 December 2014
An "awareness gap" about emissions from
livestock could hamper efforts to curb climate change, a
report warns. A survey showed that twice as many respondents
thought emissions from transport were greater than from the
global livestock sector. Yet emissions from the two sectors
are almost equal, the study explained.
It added that the goal of keeping the
global temperature rise below 2C (3.6F) would be "off the
table" unless there was a change in consumption patterns.
"Unless something is done about the
inexorable rise in emissions from the livestock sector,
which already accounts for about 14.5% of global emissions,
the expected trend is upwards because meat and dairy are two
of the fastest growing sub-sectors of agriculture," said
lead author Rob Bailey, research director of energy,
environment and resources at international affairs
think-tank Chatham House, which produced the report.
EU pesticide policy putting food
production at risk
The Crop Protection Association (CPA) has
used the one year anniversary of a moratorium on the use of
neonicotinoids to call for a ‘science-based’ approach to EU
Growers have reported oilseed rape (OSR)
yields down by about 30 per cent in some areas and many
struggled to control the booming flea beetle population
which was brought on by the unusually warm autumn.
A HGCA report
published in September noted 2.7 per cent of the national
winter OSR crop, equivalent to 18,000 hectares, has been
completely lost to the beetles. These losses also represent
a reduction in one of the most abundant sources of early
nectar and pollen for bees in the UK.
Guardian, 1 December 2014
85% of crop-based biofuel used on UK
roads is imported
Only 15% of crop-derived biofuel used in UK transport is
grown on British farms, new figures from Defra reveal.
This is despite a 17% increase in UK-sourced biofuels being used in
the nation’s vehicles between 2012-13 and 2013-14 to 332m
Biofuels used in the UK in 2013-14 totalled 810m litres –
with 85% coming from countries both in and outside of
The largest import came from the Ukraine, which exported
138m litres of corn-derived biofuels to the UK market. Other
big exporters to the UK were France (71m litres from sugar
beet compared to 57m litres home-grown) and the USA (60m
litres from corn).
Weekly, 26 November 2014
is playing an increasingly important role in global food
security, a study has suggested. Researchers, using
satellite data, found that agricultural activities within
20km of urban areas occupy an area equivalent to the
The international team of scientists says
the results should challenge the focus on rural areas of
agricultural research and development work. The findings appear
in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
"This is the first study to document the
global scale of food production in and around urban
settings," explained co-author Pay Drechsel, a researcher
for the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
Fracking could help boost UK
Fracking will help to stabilise UK
fertiliser production, experts have claimed. The pro
fracking group North
West Energy Task Force said
giving the go-ahead for the development of natural gas from
shale would boost production and ‘ultimately allow UK
farmers to meet increased global demand for food’.
However, anti-fracking campaigners
criticised the claims, adding it was highly unlikely the
fertiliser industry would benefit.
Debbie Baker from fertiliser manufacturer
GrowHow said: “As gas is our primary raw material it
determines our sustainability as a business. “Over the long
term, we believe shale gas can help retain UK fertiliser
production and has the potential to improve future energy
and food security in the UK.”
Guardian, 19 November 2014
Most countries in the world are facing a
serious public health problem as a result of malnutrition, a
report warns. The Global
Nutrition Report said
every nation except China had crossed a "malnutrition red
line", suffering from too much or too little nutrition.
Globally, malnutrition led to "11% of GDP
being squandered as a result of lives lost, less learning,
less earning and days lost to illness," it added. The
findings follow on from last year's Nutrition
from Growth summit in London.
Agri-science MP concerned over axing of
EU chief scientist role
The EU must guard
against politicising decisions on agri-science if Europe’s
farmers are to contribute fully to the urgent global
challenges of food security and climate change.
That was the warning issued today by Mark Spencer MP,
chair-elect of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science
and Technology in Agriculture, in response to the decision
by newly appointed EU Commission President Jean Claude
Juncker to scrap the role of EU chief scientific adviser.
Farm Business, 13 November 2014
Unite in fight to save pesticides,
Farm minister George Eustice has called on industry leaders
to build alliances across Europe in a bid to fend off
further restrictions on pesticides.
Defra was pushing for Brussels
to take a risk-based approach to active ingredients, Mr
Eustice told listeners at this week’s AIC Agribusiness 2015
event on Wednesday (12 November). “The more evidence we have
to support us in that, the better,” he said.
A recent industry-funded report warning
that EU decisions to ban some pesticides could increase food
prices and hit farm profits was an “important contribution”
to the debate, Mr Eustice told conference delegates at the
last month, the independent report was compiled by farm
business consultant Andersons. It was jointly commissioned
by the NFU, the Crop Protection Association (CPA) and the
Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC).
Farmers Weekly, 12 November 2014
GM crops 'good for farmers and
the environment', study shows
GM crops are good for the economy and
can reduce the amount of pesticides used in agriculture,
that is according to a new study by the German Federal
Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and
the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme.
Despite the rapid adoption of genetically modified (GM)
crops by farmers in many countries, controversies about the
technology continue. Uncertainty about GM crop impacts is
one reason for widespread public suspicion, the report
The results of the study found on average, GM technology
adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%,
increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits
by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for
insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops.
Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries
than in developed countries.
Farming UK, 12 November 2012
MEPs vote to allow countries to ban
GM crop cultivation
Long-awaited draft plans to allow
member states to restrict or ban the cultivation of GM crops
on their territory won the support of the European
Parliament’s environment committee on Tuesday (11 November).
MEPs supported plans to allow members states to overrule
the EU and ban GMs on environmental grounds. The vote was
approved by 53 votes to 11, with two abstentions. However,
the plans must still be given approval by the EU’s executive
body, the European Commission and national governments.
The approved text empowers member states
to pass legally binding acts to restrict or prohibit the
cultivation of GM crops after they have been authorised at
Farmers Weekly, 11 November
'Supercomputer' set to improve
weather forecasts for farmers
Farmers could soon benefit from improved severe weather
warnings and better long-term forecasts thanks to a £97m
The weather ranks as one of the biggest
topics of conversation among farmers and it has arguably
become even more common in recent years due to the effect of
climate change. But more help could soon be available for
farmers with the launch of the Met Office supercomputer,
which is set to give the UK its most accurate forecasts
The world-leading high-performance
computer (HPC) will be 13 times more powerful than the
current system used by the Met Office and will have 120,000
times more memory than a top-end smartphone. The
supercomputer will be built in Exeter next year and will be
operational in September.
Weekly, 8 November 2014
Lack of engineers a 'ticking time
bomb' for agriculture
A lack of
engineers, not enough people promoting the land-based
industries and a lack of apprentice opportunities for
students is a 'ticking time bomb', according to a new
was designed to understand the challenges facing the
land-based engineering industry such as, funding of
technical education, apprenticeships, up-skilling the work
force to meet the demands of modern business practices,
attracting new recruits of the right calibre and raising the
awareness of the industry and the career opportunities
The survey of agricultural machinery dealers
UK, 6 November 2014
New European research, led by Scotland’s
Rural College, suggests farmers could be encouraged to grow
more legumes by introducing a “Legume Premium Payment” to
woo them away from imported feeds like soya and grow their
This advice is drawn from a recently completed research
project called Legume Futures, which looked at whether
including peas, beans or other nitrogen fixing legumes, in a
crop rotation improved the yields of the crops following
them. Researchers also considered whether legumes improved
biodiversity, and assessed their effect on greenhouse gas
The study found that adding legumes into a rotation can
increase farm profitability by £46 a hectare. The extra
income results from substantially increased yields of cereal
crops grown after the legumes, in some cases by as much as
25%. Researchers found growing legumes in a rotation helps
control weeds or pests and improves soils structure, leading
to increased nutrient uptake.
Farming UK, 3 November 2014
The unrestricted use of fossil fuels
should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid
dangerous climate change, a UN-backed expert panel says.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change says in a stark report that most of the world's
electricity can - and must - be produced from low-carbon
sources by 2050.
If not, the world faces "severe, pervasive
and irreversible" damage. The UN said inaction would cost
"much more" than taking the necessary action.
Europe’s leading plant scientists call
for urgent action to defend research
More than twenty of Europe’s most
prominent plant scientists today signed a joint letter
warning that Europe may lose its research lead unless plant
science is adequately funded, GM plant varieties that have
been found safe are allowed and field trials are protected
The scientists, world-leaders in disciplines ranging from
botany to ecology to molecular biology, state that the
current EU "de facto moratorium on transgenic plant
approvals has been detrimental for applied plant science and
has effectively eliminated possibilities for publicly funded
scientists and small companies to address the big challenges
Farm Business, 30 October 2014
Europe must lift GM food limits to
help feed planet, say experts
Strict European controls on genetic
modification should be swept away to open the door to new
crop improving technologies, Government-funded experts have
In a new position statement, the Biotechnology and
Biological Sciences Research Council (BBRC) challenged the
current precautionary approach that has effectively stifled
GM crop farming in the EU.
The body, which allocates British
government funding for biotech research, highlighted the
growing importance of ''genome editing'' technology that
allows precise and targeted genetic changes without having
to switch DNA between species. Such advances blurred the
line between GM and non-GM breeding techniques, it was
The Telegraph, 28 October 2014
£5 million for agricultural innovation
Businesses and universities across the UK
will benefit from a share of £5M of funding from government
and industry to develop innovations to solve some of the
world's greatest agricultural challenges such as food
security and sustainability, weed control and livestock
This £5M is part of the second round of
funding to be distributed through the £70M Agri-Tech
Catalyst, announced as part of the UK
Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies in July
The Agri-Tech Catalyst, run by
BBSRC and Innovate UK, is designed to support collaborative
research between scientists and businesses to springboard
projects from the lab to the market place. Innovations in
this round include an autonomous robot weed sprayer for
difficult terrain farm land and developing a cereal to
create improved bread products for diabetics.
BIS, 22 October 2014
The EU's decision to ban the use of some
pesticides could threaten UK crops, increase food prices and
hit farmers' profits, a report has claimed.
The report commissioned by three farming
bodies said the EU was on course to "ban" use of 40
chemicals by 2020 to reduce environmental damage.
It said this could lead to a surge in
pests, affecting production of apples, carrots and peas,
among other crops.
pesticides could cost supply chain £2.6bn each year
Profits from UK agriculture could
decline by over a third if present policy on pesticides is
not reversed, a new report has claimed.
The study into the future of Plant
Protection Products (PPP) in the UK found as a result of EU
policies and their implementation in the UK, 87 out of
around 250 approved pesticides in the UK could be lost to
the farming industry.
Of these, about 40 are considered to
have a high likelihood of disappearing or being restricted
within the next five to seven years. The wider food supply
chain could see economic losses of up to £2.5bn per year,
according to the study published by The Andersons Centre.
Farmers Guardian, 21 October 2014
Britain has only 100 harvests left in
its farm soil as scientists warn of growing 'agricultural
Intense over-farming means there are only 100 harvests left
in the soil of the UK’s countryside, a study has found.
With a growing population and the declining standard of
British farmland, scientists warned that we are on course
for an “agricultural crisis” unless dramatic action is
Despite the traditional perception that there is a green and
pleasant land outside the grey, barren landscape of our
cities, researchers from the University of Sheffield found
that on average urban plots of soil were richer in nutrients
than many farms.
The Independent, 20 October 2014
Government to end subsidies on land
used for solar
Farmers will not be able to claim EU
subsidies on land used for generating solar energy from
The move, announced by Defra Secretary Liz
Truss, means farmers who use fields for solar will
not be eligible for any farm subsidy payments on that land,
available through the Common Agricultural Policy.
The Minister said the reform was designed
to stop productive farmland being ‘blighted’ by solar farms.
Guardian, 20 October 2014
Harper Adams and Dairy Crest unveil
£4m innovation deal
Milk processor Dairy Crest and Harper Adams University have
signed a £4m deal to build a brand-new food innovation
Research teams from Dairy Crest’s
Crudgington site will make the short six-mile trip to a
purpose-built home on the university’s Shropshire campus.
As part of the joint project, the
processor will tap into Harper’s food and farming research,
while students and staff will benefit from placements and
insight into the industry.
Farmers Weekly, 14 October 2014
Eblex claims multimillion-pound
benefits to livestock farmers
Work to help average-performing beef and sheep farmers enter
the top tier has been worth £217m to the industry, according
The levy board’s annual review claimed
the £3.1m spent on research and knowledge transfer in the
past year has been delivered many times that in benefits to
Eblex collected £15.4m of income from the
slaughter of cattle and sheep in the 2013-14 financial year
– 1.5% more than the previous year.
Farmers Weekly, 10 October 2014
record wheat yields
year’s wheat crop saw the highest yields ever recorded, the
NFU has predicted. NFU’s harvest survey predicts
average wheat yields for the 2014 UK harvest to be a record
high at an
average 8.6 tonnes per hectare, 16 per cent up on 2013.
The union pointed to ‘near perfect’
growing conditions for the crop, as well as farmers’ ability
to control disease. But NFU combinable crops board chairman
Mike Hambly said future years’ yield and quality could be
hit as farmers’ use of fungicides and insecticides was
currently in question.
He said: “Many of these are under
threat from EU Commission regulation and as this legislation
hits, it will in turn compromise both the quality and
potential yield of wheat.”
Farmers Guardian, 7 October 2014
BBSRC unveils £125 million for doctoral
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council is funding 12 partnerships that will train
1,250 PhD students over five years. Business secretary Vince
Cable said the funding would “safeguard” Britain’s
reputation as a world leader in the life sciences.
Awards of between £4 million and £15
million have been made to the groups, which include more
than 30 universities in total, as well as research
institutes and trusts. The partnerships will train the next
generation of scientists that can help tackle major
challenges in agriculture, food, industrial biotechnology,
bioenergy and health.
Times Higher Education, 3
17,000ha of winter OSR lost to flea
Around 17,000 hectares of winter oilseed
rape crops have been lost due to damage from cabbage stem
flea beetle (CSFB), according to an assessment commissioned
In the first autumn without neonicotinoid
seed treatments, flea beetle damage has contributed to
estimated losses of 3.2 per cent of the winter OSR crop
across England and Scotland.
But this masks significant regional
variation with some growers experiencing ‘significant
control issues’ particularly in southern and eastern
Guardian, 3 October 2014
Public perception of farming
More of the British public think
positively about farmers and farming than last year
according to a recent OnePoll survey commissioned by the
Following the launch of the Back British Farming campaign,
the latest survey results reveal 67 per cent of people think
favourably about farmers, a five per cent increase
continuing an upward trend from 20121.
The survey also questioned people’s understanding of
farming’s impact on the economy and the countryside. Results
show that 90 per cent believe farming is fairly or very
important to the economy and almost three quarters of people
think farmers have a beneficial effect on the countryside. more
Farming UK, 1 October 2014
UK blackberry industry gets set for
British blackberry growers have revealed
that sales have nearly doubled in a year, having produced
1,123 tonnes to date compared to just 808 tonnes this time
in September 2013 – a 44 per cent increase.
Industry experts are now predicting that this year’s crop
will break records with consumers set to enjoy 2,000 tonnes
of the fruit, exceeding last year’s production by a
staggering 82 per cent.
This growth is only set to continue as commercial growers
are developing new ‘sweet-eating’ varieties set to cause a
surge in blackberries’ popularity and transform sales. This
is thanks to advances in breeding resulting in new
Farm Business, 29 September
Underestimated effects of neonicotinoid ban
Oilseed rape has been a victim of the growing gaps in
control from crop protection products after the autumn sown
crop was untreated due to the current restriction on the use
of neonicotinoid seed treatment. Evidence from farmers and
from ADAS’ preliminary reports on the damage caused by
cabbage stem flea beetle show that policy-makers have widely
underestimated the effects of this restriction.
NFU Deputy Director General Martin Haworth said: “We are
frankly alarmed that a large percentage of oilseed rape,
which makes up 15.7 per cent of UK arable land, is under
threat from a destructive pest that was formerly controlled
by neonicotinoids. Nearly 1.8million acres of oilseed rape
were planted in 2013 and without the availability of crucial
active ingredients in crop protection products, this vital
farming crop will decline.
“The third most planted crop with much of it being exported
to Europe, oilseed rape is used for biodiesel, cooking oil,
animal feed and even industrial plastic. A decline in
reduction would undoubtedly have a worryingly adverse impact
on the wider economy."
Farming UK, 29 September 2014
CPA calls for better monitoring of
Nick von Westenholz warned a fringe
meeting organised by CPA at the Labour Party Conference that
the ban is already threatening to have a negative impact on
2015 crop yields, with unintended consequences for
“We are seeing farmers struggling very
seriously to establish OSR crop. For the first time this
autumn OSR crops are being planting without neonicotinoid
Guardian, 24 September 2014
Genetic preservation of poultry breeds
one step closer
A “frozen aviary” that could preserve the genetic material
of all types of poultry – from heritage commercial stock to
pure breeds – is one step closer thanks to new funding. The
Roslin Institute and poultry breeding firm Cobb have been
awarded a £650,000 grant from Innovate UK, a government body
that supports research, for an initial project in creating a
record of poultry’s genetic stock.
Although embryonic preservation has been possible for
mammals for some time, meaning animals can be stored and
resurrected at a later date, it has not been possible to do
so with poultry embryos. This has meant breeding companies
such as Cobb have had to keep heritage strains of birds from
as far back as 50-60 years in production, to preserve the
traits that led to the modern broiler.
point the way to improved biofuel production
Manufacturing biofuels from food crop
by-products such as straw could be made quicker and cheaper
thanks to the work of scientists in the UK and France.
Researchers funded by the Biotechnology
and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have
discovered variant straw plants whose cell walls are more
easily broken down to make biofuels, but which are not
significantly smaller or weaker than regular plants.
The discovery could help ease pressure
on global food security as biofuels from non-food crops
become easier and cheaper to make.
BBSRC, 22 September 2014
World population to hit 11bn in 2100 – with 70% chance of continuous rise
The world’s population is now odds-on to swell ever-higher
for the rest of the century, posing grave challenges for
food supplies, healthcare and social cohesion. A
ground-breaking analysis released on Thursday shows there is
a 70% chance that the number of people on the planet will
rise continuously from 7bn today to 11bn in 2100.
The work overturns 20 years of consensus that global
population, and the stresses it brings, will peak by 2050 at
about 9bn people. “The previous projections said this
problem was going to go away so it took the focus off the
population issue,” said Prof Adrian Raftery, at the
University of Washington, who led the international research
“There is now a strong argument that population should
return to the top of the international agenda. Population is
the driver of just about everything else and rapid
population growth can exacerbate all kinds of challenges.”
Lack of healthcare, poverty, pollution and rising unrest and
crime are all problems linked to booming populations, he
The Guardian, 19 September 2014
A big step towards more efficient
For the first time flowering plants
have been successfully engineered to fix carbon like the
blue-green algae – this can potentially increase
photosynthesis and yields in crop plants.
Plants, algae and some
bacteria capture light energy from the sun and transform it
into chemical energy by the process named photosynthesis.
Blue-green algae have a more efficient mechanism in carrying
out photosynthesis than plants. For a long time now, it has
been suggested that if plants could carry out photosynthesis
with a similar mechanism to that of the blue-green algae,
plant productivity and hence crop yields could improve.
scientists strategically funded by the BBSRC and in
collaboration with colleagues at Cornell University funded
by the U.S. National Science Foundation have used genetic
engineering to demonstrate for the first time that flowering
plants can carry out photosynthesis utilizing a faster
bacterial Rubisco enzyme rather than their own slower
Rubisco enzyme. These findings represent a milestone toward
the goal of improving the photosynthetic rate in crop
plants. The study is published in Nature.
Rothamsted Research, 18 September 2014
World hunger falls, but 805 million
still chronically undernourished
About 805 million people in the world,
or one in nine, suffer from hunger, according to a new UN
The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2014)
confirmed a positive trend which has seen the number of
hungry people decline globally by more than 100 million over
the last decade and by more than 200 million since 1990-92.
The overall trend in hunger reduction in developing
countries means that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG)
of halving the proportion of undernourished people by 2015
is within reach, "if appropriate and immediate efforts are
stepped up," the report said.
Business, 17 September 2014
Investment vital as food security
the food security challenges posed by pests and pathogens,
climate change and changing priorities for UK agriculture
were all under the microscope at the inaugural Exeter
Initiative for Science and Technology conference.
Our obsession with high profile problems
such as HIV and Ebola means far less money is being spent on
combating crop pests and pathogens – vital if we are to feed
the globe’s growing population – according to a former
president of the British Society of Plant Pathology.
Prof Sarah Gurr said every year the world
was losing 16-23 per cent of crops to pests and pathogens,
which was disturbing, given the anticipated rise in
population from the current 7.2 billion to 9bn by 2050.
Guardian, 13 September 2014
Plant insights could help develop
crops for changing climates
thrive in changing climates could be developed more easily,
thanks to fresh insights into plant growth. A new computer
model that shows how plants grow under varying conditions
could help scientists develop varieties likely to grow well
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh
built the model to investigate how variations in light, day
length, temperature and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
influence the biological pathways that control growth and
flowering in plants. They found differences in the way some
plant varieties distribute nutrients under varying
conditions, leading some to develop leaves and fruit that
are smaller but more abundant than others. Their findings
could help scientists develop crops that have high yield in
particular environmental conditions.
diversity in China 'vital for food security'
With climate change threatening global
food supplies, new research claims the rich flora of China
could be crucial to underpin food security in the future.
The research was presented at the British Science
Association’s press launch for the British Science Festival,
which starts today.
A team from the University of Birmingham and partners in
China have identified 871 wild plant species native to China
that have the potential to adapt and maintain 28 globally
important crops, including rice, wheat, soybean, sorghum,
banana, apple, citrus fruits, grape, stone fruits and
millet. 42% of these wild plant species, known as crop wild
relatives (CWR) occur nowhere else in the world.
Farming UK, 8 September 2014
Genetically modified crop harvested
Britain’s first trial of GM crops
enriched with nutrients to improve health has been
Following a groundbreaking field trial,
the first camelina (false flax) crop genetically modified to
produce seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids was harvested at
Rothamsted Research on Friday (5 September).
The trial, sown in May, is the first field
trial in the UK to test plants in which the genetic
structure has been altered to produce health-boosting
properties. For the experiment, genes taken from algae were
inserted into the plants to make marine oils.
Farmers Weekly, 6 September 2014
More UK-grown protein for animal feed
would push up meat prices
Meat and milk produced in Britain would
cost more, and reliance on cereal imports would increase if
the UK grew more of its own crop protein for animal feeds,
University of Reading research has found.
While up to half of all imported soya meal for animal feed
could be replaced by home-grown equivalents, the result
would be higher feed prices for dairy and meat farmers, and
a reduction in cereal production, meaning the UK would have
to import more grain from abroad.
The research, from the University of Reading’s renowned
Centre for Agricultural Strategy (CAS), was carried out in
response to calls to make the British livestock industry
more self-sufficient in protein feed, much of which is
currently shipped in from overseas in the form of soya meal.
Business, 2 September 2014
revolution meeting considers Africa’s food future
African ministers and business
leaders have gathered in Ethiopia to consider ways to
trigger a green revolution and improve the continent's food
The African Green Revolution Forum, being held in Addis
Ababa, will focus on delivering agriculture-led economic
growth in sub-Saharan Africa.
In June, the Africa Union issued a
declaration to double food productivity and halve poverty by
2025. Almost 1,000 delegates are expected to attend the
BBC News, 1 September 2014
Eat less red meat to help save the
planet, say academics
People should eat no more than two
portions of red meat per week to help the environment and
meet increasing global food demand, scientists have found.
A study by Cambridge and Aberdeen
universities found that population growth and the trend for
Westerners eating more meat means that soon farmers will not
be able to raise enough livestock. And researchers warn that
attempting to produce more meat could be devastating for the
Increased deforestation, fertiliser use
and livestock methane emissions likely to cause greenhouse
gas emissions from food production to rise by almost 80 per
cent by 2050, experts from the University of Cambridge and
University of Aberdeen warn.
The Telegraph, 31 August 2014
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop
pests threaten UK
Britain has “significantly
underestimated” the risk that crop pests pose to its food
supply. Fungi and viruses present so great a danger to
staples such as wheat and potatoes that they may force the
nation to change its diet, an academic has warned.
The rise of deadly pests poses a threat
to the world’s entire food system, but the UK is among the
most vulnerable countries, according to a new study from the
University of Exeter. It forecasts that food-growing
nations, including the UK, will be “overwhelmed” by pests
within the next 30 years as climate change, inadequate
biosecurity measures and new variants help them spread.
“The UK has significantly underestimated
the scale of the threat. This is a huge problem that is
lacking in public and political awareness. People are
absolutely paralysed with fear of diseases like Ebola, but
while they are extremely dangerous, the need to tackle crop
diseases is just as pressing,” said Professor Sarah Gurr, of
the University of Exeter and Rothamsted Research.
Independent, 28 August 2014
OSR genome reveals evolutionary 'love
An international team of scientists who have successfully
mapped the genome of Brassica Napus – better known as
oilseed rape – have said their discovery of the sequence has
laid bare an "evolutionary love triangle."
The scientists, who published their findings in the
journal Science, said their breakthrough paves the way for
improving the key field crop, which is widely grown around
the world. Oilseed rape is the third most commonly used
vegetable oil worldwide, and the second most common source
of protein for animal feed.
"This genome sequence opens new
doors to accelerating the improvement of canola," said
professor Andrew Paterson from the University of Georgia, at
Athens. "We can use this knowledge to tailor the plant's
flowering time, make it more resistant to disease and
improve a myriad of other traits that will make it more
profitable for production."
Farming Online, 26 August 2014
Computers to protect crop
scientists are devising new and more efficient ways to spot
diseased crops to help boost harvest yields. Researchers are
developing image processing and machine learning programs to
discover disease on pictures of crop leaves and assess the
severity of infection.
A new detection system could
dramatically speed up diagnosis compared to the current
time-consuming method of walking among crops, using visual
observation and estimation to calculate the disease’s
damage. Novel diagnostic software could give growers more
accurate information on which to base their disease control
strategies and stop crop yields from being reduced by
Dr Liangxiu Han, from the School of Computing, Maths and
Digital Technology, is working with the Food and Environment
Research Agency (FERA) on the six-month pilot study.
UK, 20 August 2014
Web and Twitter keep farmers up to
date in the field, survey shows
British farmers are ahead of their
Continental counterparts on mobile computing and also
increasingly use social media in their work, a survey by
supplier Syngenta has found.
A full 64 per cent of UK farmers now have
an internet-enabled smartphone, compared to an EU average of
53 per cent.
"There has clearly been a general increase
of internet usage by farmers over the last five years, but
we have experienced a very sharp rise in the past year,
especially through mobile phones," said Syngenta's digital
marketing manager Edwina Mullins.
Horticulture Week, 19 August
Genetically engineered fruit flies
could save crops
Releasing genetically engineered fruit
flies into the wild could prove to be a cheap, effective and
environmentally friendly way of pest control according to
scientists at the University of East Anglia and Oxford
Insect Technologies (Oxitec).
New research published today reveals how the release of
genetically engineered male flies could be used as an
effective population suppression method – saving crops
around the world.
The Mediterranean fruit fly is a serious agricultural pest
which causes extensive damage to crops. It is currently
controlled by a combination of insecticides, baited traps,
biological control and releasing sterilised insects to
produce non-viable matings, known as the Sterile Insect
Farm Business, 13 August 2014
resistance sacrificed for perfect skin
Supermarket demand for perfect skin
finish on potatoes is hampering efforts to produce disease-
and virus-resistant varieties, according to one of the UK’s
Speaking at the Potatoes in Practice
event in Scotland, Finlay Dale, principal potato breeder at
the James Hutton Institute, said the emphasis placed on skin
finish was affecting how quickly breeders could meet some of
the targets the industry “really needed’.
“The number of varieties that we and
others have had rejected - even if they’re the most blight-
and potato cyst nematode-resistant thing we have,” he said.
“Just because the skin finish isn’t 100% right.
Farmers Weekly, 10 August 2014
First GM crops enriched with nutrients
ready for harvest
The first genetically modified crops,
enriched with nutrients to improve health, will be harvested
within weeks following a landmark field trial in Britain.
In a major step towards GM food, a crop
of camelina (false flax) has been spliced with genes which
make Omega-3 so that its seeds will produce an oil rich in
fatty acid normally only found in fish.
It is the first example of a new
generation of so-called ‘nutraceuticals’ – plants whose
genetic structure has been altered to introduce
health-boosting properties. If future trials are successful,
the plant oil will initially be fed to farmed fish, such as
salmon, to boost their Omega-3 content and make food
healthier for shoppers.
Telegraph, 6 August 2014
£2m of grants awarded for food
Grants worth nearly £2 million have been
awarded to examine the risks posed to the global food system
by problems like food fraud. The recipients include
Professor Chris Elliott, of Queens University Belfast, who has
carried out a review of the ‘integrity and assurance’ of the
UK’s food supply chain in
the wake of the horsemeat scandal.
Prof Elliott will lead a project
exploring the politics, sociology and psychology behind food
fraud and how other countries deal with the problem.
The grants are provided by the Economic
and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Food Standards
Agency (FSA), which say they have areas of mutual interest
around the challenges to the UK agri-food system, food
safety, food fraud/crime and consumer trust.
Guardian, 5 August 2014
Organic farming on the rise in Europe,
The amount of land in organic production
across Europe has grown by about 5m ha over the past decade,
according to latest figures from the European Union.
A study which looked at organic
production across the EU over the past decade found that the
it’s organic sector grew by about 500,000ha a year, with
9.6m ha of land - or 5.4% of the total farmed area - in
organic production by 2011.
The report, The rapid growth of EU
organic farming, found that organic agriculture grew by
about 13% a year between 2002 and 2011. And while organic
farms only account for 1.6% of the total number of farms in
the EU, the number increased by tenfold between 2003 and
4 August 2014
Research into pesticides and bees must
be transparent, urge MPs
MPs have warned that “critical” research
on the impact of pesticides linked to damaging bee health
must be transparent and open to independent scrutiny.
The government’s draft National
Pollinator Strategy, which aims to protect bees and other
pollinators worth an estimated £400m a year to the UK
economy, sets out that part of the research into the effects
of neonicotinoids on bees would be carried out by pesticide
In response to the draft plans, MPs on the
parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), have
called for the research to be “transparent and subject to
independent controls” or it will “not inspire public
Farmers Weekly, 28 July 2014
War of letters over call to abolish EC
scientific adviser role
Battle lines are being drawn in scientific communities
across Europe after an open letter from NGOs earlier this
week called into question the need for a chief scientific
adviser working for the president of the European
On Friday their call for the role's abolition provoked two
further open letters supporting the post from major
scientific organisations, including the Wellcome Trust and
The Guardian, 25 July 2014
Sub-Saharan Africa's agricultural sector
needs to harvest the fruits of biotechnology in order to
establish sustainable development, says a report.
A key challenge is to attract funding for
biotechnology projects on staple crops, such as cassava, it
added. These crops were often ignored by commercial funders
because they had a limited market, the authors suggested.
The report, On
Trial: GM Crops in Africa, published by think tank
Chatham House, said: "Increasing agricultural productivity
and adapting farming to climate change are central to
Africa's development prospects."
Calls for proportionate approach to
new crop science
Scientists are urging EU policymakers to
adopt a proportionate approach to a potentially
revolutionary new plant breeding technology in the wake of
the effective block on GM crops in Europe.
Advances in sequencing the genome of the
wheat plant has brought the science of ‘genome editing’ a
big step nearer to producing ground-breaking new traits
which could benefit farmers and consumers.
Last week, the International Wheat Genome
Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) published
a draft sequence of the wheat genome. IWGSC described the
development as a ‘major landmark towards’ obtaining a
complete reference sequence of the wheat genome. It
estimates that the full genome sequence will be available
within three years.
Guardian, 24 July 2014
fight against deadly chicken disease
BBSRC-funded researchers at the Royal Veterinary College
(RVC) are a step closer to finding a new cost-effective
vaccine for the intestinal disease, coccidiosis, which can
have devastating effects on poultry production.
are the world's most popular food animal and global poultry
production has tripled in the past 20 years. The world's
chicken flock is now estimated to be around 21 billion,
producing 1.1 trillion eggs and 60 billion broilers (90
million tonnes of meat) every year.
Coccidiosis is caused by protozoan
parasites of the genus Eimeria, closely related to
the parasites that cause malaria in humans. The infection
affects chickens' intestines and if not controlled has
extremely high morbidity and mortality rates
Royal Veterinary College, 23 July 2014
Defra unveils 15 Agri-Tech projects
Projects to improve the taste of lamb and
to develop an organic pesticide are among 15 innovative
pieces of research to benefit from funding under the
Government’s Agri-Tech strategy.
Defra has revealed 15 agri-tech projects
that will receive a share of £18 million from Government and
industry to help accelerate agricultural innovation and
their commercial viability.
These are the first industrial research
awards to be funded by the £70m Agri-Tech Catalyst, which is
aiming to make the UK a world leader in agricultural
science, innovation and sustainability.
Guardian, 22 July 2014
Beef environment cost 10 times that of
A new study suggests that the production
of beef is around 10 times more damaging to the environment
than any other form of livestock.
Scientists measured the environment
inputs required to produce the main US sources of protein.
Beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more
irrigation water than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy.
has been published in
the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While it has long been known that beef has a greater
environmental impact than other meats, the authors of this
paper say theirs is is the first to quantify the scale in a
BBC News, 21 July 2014
Norfolk MP becomes Minister for Life
The Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has
been given his first ministerial job as Minister for Life
Sciences jointly in the Department for Health and Department
for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Mr Freeman worked in the biomedical field
before becoming an MP in 2010. In 2011 he was appointed
Government Adviser on Life Sciences to the then Universities
& Science Minister David Willetts.
ITV News, 15 July 2014
could prevent and tackle disease outbreaks
Researchers at the University of
Liverpool are building the world’s most comprehensive
database describing human and animal pathogens, which they
believe could be used to prevent and tackle disease
outbreaks around the globe.
By effectively mapping the
relationships between human and animal diseases and their
hosts, disease-causing pathogens and the ways in which
pathogens are transmitted, scientists can use the
information to see what disease risks are in a population or
geographical area, and how best to manage and eliminate
Farmers Guardian, 15 July 2014
New Centre of
Excellence for Plant and Microbial Science
Scientific partnerships between the UK
and China are being strengthened with the establishment of a
£12M centre for plant science and microbiology spanning the
The joint John Innes Centre/Chinese
Academy of Sciences Centre of Excellence in Plant and
Microbial Science will enhance research to support the
agricultural technology and microbial genetics agendas of
This new agreement is the most advanced
partnership between the UK and China of its kind and was
developed with support from BBSRC, from which the John Innes
Centre receives strategic funding.
Innes Centre, 14 July 2014
Farming policy needs overhaul to tackle future problems,
Major changes are needed to the UK's food
and farming policy if it is to combat food poverty, obesity
and environmental problems of the future, according to a new
'Square Meal: why we need a new recipe for farming,
wildlife, food and public health' is a new report published
today by The Food Research Collaboration, the RSPB, Friends
of the Earth, the National Trust, the Food Ethics Council,
Sustain, the Wildlife Trusts, the Soil Association, Eating
Better and Compassion in World Farming.
This new discussion document urges major changes to national
food and farming policy. It calls for stronger government
leadership in planning the future use of land, food policy,
farming and conservation in England and for wider public
engagement on issues that affect the whole of society.
Farming UK, 14 July 2014
Japanese plant experts produce 10,000
lettuce heads a day in LED-lit indoor farm
Could this be the future of agriculture?
A physiologist has turned a former semiconductor factory
into one of the world’s largest indoor farm, cultivating
lettuces with LED lights. At almost half the size of a
football pitch, the farm, which opened in Japan in July, is
already churning out 10,000 lettuce heads a day, the brains
behind it say.
Plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura
wanted to explore ways that man could keep up with the
ever-increasing food demand while bypassing the risks
brought on by drought, crop disease and natural disasters.
“I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I
wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make
things happen,” Mr Shimamura said.
The climate controlled room is powered by
LED fixtures that emit light at wavelengths – the most ideal
for plant growth – while also giving the ‘farmers’ power to
control the night and day cycles.
The Independent, 12 July 2014
Morrisons launches cattle farming app
Morrisons has become the first
supermarket to launch a free app for cattle farmers aimed at
simplifying livestock management.
Farming App is
aimed primarily at beef producers and is available on all
Android devices. It will also be available on Apple devices
The app includes a live link to the
British Cattle Movement Service so cattle data from multiple
holdings can be viewed. It also enables the registering of
cattle births, deaths and movements.
Guardian, 9 July 2014
Mustard growers face neonics challenge
One of Britain’s iconic niche crops could
be hit harder than most by a European decision to ban
neonicotinoid seed treatments.
Fewer than 20 farmers grow English
mustard for Norwich-based Colman’s, which is celebrating its
200th anniversary this year. But the neonicotinoid ban means
they face an additional challenge when establishing the crop
this coming season.
The potential impact of the ban for
oilseed rape growers has been well-documented. But the
handful of English mustard growers could face even bigger
consequences – partly because there are fewer alternatives
to neonicotinoids when it comes to controlling pests in
Farmers Weekly, 8 July 2014
MPs push for reduction in antibiotics
Ministers must step up action to stop the unnecessary use of
antibiotics in farm animals, say MPs.
They say the
use of antibiotics in healthy animals to promote growth has
sky-rocketed during the past 40 years.
And if the government doesn’t take steps
to curb their routine use, there is danger that
antibiotics-resistant bacteria in the food supply will
endanger human health.
is contained in a report published on Monday (7 July) by MPs
on the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee,
Access to Working Antimicrobials.
Farmers Weekly, 7 July 2014
Radical plan needed to stop spread of
cattle TB – study
suggests that the spread of TB in cattle can only be
controlled if more radical measures are adopted.
Culling of entire herds, more testing and cattle vaccination
are needed to reverse the spread of the disease.
researcher has told BBC News that the study also confirms
research that shows culling badgers will at best slightly
slow down rather than stop the epidemic.The results have
been published in the journal Nature.
Prof Matt Keeling of Warwick University,
who led the research, told BBC News that computer
projections showed that the current measures adopted by the
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
are unlikely to reverse the spread of TB in cattle.
News, 2 July 2014
UK future food security threatened by
complacency, MPs warn
The UK’s ability to feed itself is
threatened by “complacency” over the extreme weather driven
by climate change and increasing competition for food as the
world’s population grows, MPs warned on Tuesday.
food and rural affairs (Efra) select committee said
ministers must put plans in place to secure supplies of
fruit and vegetables and the soya needed to feed the
nation’s dairy herds, noting that the UK’s self-sufficiency
for food that can be grown domestically has fallen from 87%
to 68% in 20 years. The MPs also urged the embracing of
technology, including genetically modified crops and robots
that weed fields.
The Guardian, 1 July 2014
‘significant’ shortage of farmland by 2030
Britain is running out of land for food
and faces a potential shortfall of two million hectares by
2030 according to new research.
from the University of Cambridge, says the growing
population plus the use of land for energy crops are
contributing to the gap.
It criticises the government's lack of a
coherent vision on how to make the most of UK farm land. The
authors warn that tough choices may need to be made on
future land use.
News, 25 June 2014
EU azole review threatens fungicides' future
The European Commission has published a roadmap for
identifying chemicals with endocrine-disrupting properties,
which threatens the future of one of the most popular group
of cereal fungicides.
The report, published this
week, sets out the timetable the commission is working
towards to define endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs),
which have been linked to a range of serious illnesses.
But any decision to classify
endocrine-disrupting chemicals could have a massive effect
on international trade and the marketing of some widely used
pesticides, such as azole fungicides, and farmers’ ability
to use them, the NFU has warned.
24 June 2014
The aim of the Innovation for Agriculture
(IfA) scheme will be to use agricultural societies around
the country as hubs for knowledge and technology transfer.
It follows the roll out of the
Government’s £160 million Agri Tech strategy, which aims to
make the UK a world leader in agricultural technology and
Guardian, 24 June 2014
Researchers in twin breakthrough against
Scientists from international
consortia including the James Hutton Institute are making
headway in the fight against blight, a plant disease
responsible for major famine and loss of life throughout
history. They have managed to track down the origins of Phytophthora
the pathogen responsible
for blight of potato, tomato and other related hosts, as
well as to spatially map its distribution and diversity
In a paper published in Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences,
an international research group has pinned down the origins
of potato late blight to a scenic highland valley in central
Mexico. The findings are relevant not just in terms of
agricultural history, but also because they may aid
researchers in their quest for food security through disease
resistance. This is quite topical as there’s no respite from
blight: so far in 2014 there have been 60 outbreaks in the
James Hutton Institute, 19 June 2014
GM banana designed to slash African infant mortality enters
A genetically modified banana which
has the potential to dramatically reduce infant mortality
and blindness in children across Africa is to undergo its
first human trials in a major step towards becoming a staple
for millions of people.
The GM banana developed by Australian scientists is
enriched with vitamin A to combat a nutritional deficiency
which leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths, and children
losing their sight across the world every year.
Researchers hope that the bioengineered
crop, which increases the level of beta-carotene in a
particular type of cooking banana grown in East Africa, will
go into commercial production in Uganda by 2020 if proven to
be effective at producing increased levels of vitamin A. The
banana is one of a series of GM organisms - from a vitamin
A-enhanced rice variety to a mosquito that could help combat
malaria - which scientists and their backers say could have
a massive effect on problems of malnutrition and disease in
the developing world.
The Independent, 16 June 2014
Plants send out
new roots towards water
Scientists have discovered how the
presence of even small amounts of water can influence the
structure of plant roots in soil, a finding that opens up
new possibilities to improve water and nutrient foraging for
important food crops.
The degree of root branching determines
the efficiency of water uptake and acquisition of nutrients
in crops. Understanding the regulation of root branching is
therefore of vital importance, and the researchers, from the
University of Nottingham, believe the added knowledge could
lead to development of higher yielding crop plants.
Farming Online, 16 June 2014
EU to limit production of biofuels from food crops
EU energy ministers agreed to limit production of biofuels
made from food crops on Friday, in response to criticism
these stoke inflation and do more environmental harm than
The ministers' endorsement of a new compromise overcomes
last year's stalemate when EU governments failed to agree on
a proposed 5% cap on the use of biofuels based on crops such
as maize or rapeseed.
Friday's deal would set a 7% limit on the use of food-based
biofuels in transport fuel. It must now be considered by the
newly-elected European parliament.
The Guardian, 13 June 2014
EU ministers back deal with option to ban or approve GM
A compromise deal to give European Union states the option
of banning genetically modified crops won approval from EU
environment ministers on Thursday, bringing the EU closer to
ending years of deadlock over GM cultivation.
Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops in Europe
have divided opinion, with strong opposition in many
countries, including France and Germany,
while Britain favors them.
Thursday's compromise deal drew criticism from both
opponents and supporters of growing GM food in Europe.
Monsanto, maker of the only GM crop grown in the EU, said if
the law were enacted as drafted, the company would continue
to focus its investment in other parts of the world. The
European Green Party, meanwhile, described the deal as "a
Trojan horse" that would open the door to GM crops across
Reuters, 12 June 2014
Pesticide 'zealots' threaten food production
Overzealous restrictions on pesticides mean farmers face a
growing challenge to produce enough food, industry leaders
have warned at the Cereals Event.
The crop protection toolbox is becoming
worryingly depleted at a time when British farmers need to
produce more crops, said the NFU.
Crop production –
which is already flatlining – would be sent into decline if
British farmers continued to lose access to key crop
protection materials, it added. Statistics show that half of
pesticides have been lost since 2001, claimed the union.
11 June 2014
Economic benefit of research at IBERS
independent report on the BBSRC-funded Institute of
Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at
Aberystwyth University has shown that every £1 of public
funding invested there in 2012/13 generated £12.18 of
benefit for the UK economy.
strategically funded by BBSRC and generated a total economic
benefit of £365M Gross Value Added (GVA) for the UK economy
and supported almost 2,450 jobs.
The report, by independent economic
consultancy BIGGAR Economics, analysed the impact of the
internationally recognised research and teaching centre. It
highlights how fundamental and applied research has already
made an impact and how it will continue to do so.
BBSRC, 10 June 2014
could slash wheat yields
The changing climate and likelihood of
more frequent adverse weather conditions could have a
detrimental impact on wheat yields in Europe by 2060,
scientists have warned.
A group of international researchers,
including scientists from Rothamsted Research, Harpenden,
used climate scenarios based on the most up-to-date climate
projections to predict the frequency and severity of weather
extremes affecting wheat production across Europe in the
next 50 years.
The team found the probability of more
than one of these extreme events occurring during a wheat
cultivation season was likely to increase. The severity of
their effect on wheat yield depends on the type of the
cultivar, said the study published in the journal Nature
Farmers Guardian, 8 June 2014
Root growth regulation could help
boost crop performance
have uncovered a new mechanism by which plants can regulate
root architecture, a discovery that could lead to better
ways of growing crops.
roots are critical for plants to survive in changing
environmental conditions, to anchor the plant to the ground
and take up water and nutrients. One important aspect of
root architecture is root branching, or lateral root
development, a complex process involving plant hormones,
environmental signals, and many genes and proteins.
Working on the plant species Arabidopsis, BBSRC-funded
researchers from the universities of Birmingham and
Nottingham discovered that a gene called AtMYB93 plays
an important role in the regulation of root branching. They
found that plants where AtMYB93
was switched off had faster growing lateral roots and more
of them, whereas the opposite was the case in plants where
the gene was expressed at a higher level than usual.
UK self-sufficiency drops for
third consecutive year
The UK’s self-sufficiency in food has
dropped for the third successive year, prompting fresh calls
for action to help reverse the trend and increase home
The country’s self-sufficiency in food
types that can be grown in this country fell from 77% in
2012 to 73% in 2013, according to provisional figures
released in the past few days by Defra.
Overall this means that last year the UK
only produced 60% of the food consumed by its inhabitants,
compared with a high of 75% in the late 1980s and early
1990s and 62% in 2012.
Latest statistics released by the
government in its Agriculture
in the United Kingdom document
show the biggest rise in imports was in grain.
Farmers Weekly, 4
New neonicotinoid report sparks
Scientists are calling for an
evidence-led debate into the impact of neonicotinoid
pesticides in pollinators. An EU ban on certain
neonicotinoids was introduced in December 2013 because of
fears they are harming pollinating insects.
A restatement of the scientific evidence
on neonicotinoids has been published in Proceedings of the
Royal Society B. The restatement, from a group of nine
scientists led by Prof Charles Godfray and Prof Angela
McLean of the Oxford Martin School, Oxford University,
clarifies the scientific evidence available on
Prof Godfray said: “Pollinators are
clearly exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides, but seldom to
lethal doses, and we need a better understanding of the
consequences of realistic sub-lethal doses to the insect
individual, bee colony and pollinator population.”
Prof McLean added; “A major question to be
addressed is what farmers will do now that they face
restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids. Will they switch
to crops which need less insecticide treatment or might they
apply older but more dangerous chemicals?”
Guardian, 28 May 2014
GM crops: organic farmer loses court case over alleged
An organic farmer has lost a landmark
court case against a neighbour who grew genetically modified
food. Steve Marsh was suing his neighbour and former friend
Michael Baxter for $85,000 after claiming that GM canola
drifted onto his oats, rye and sheep farm at Kojonup, 260km
south-east of Perth.
As well as financial compensation, Marsh
wanted Western Australia’s supreme court to issue a
permanent injunction banning Baxter from planting GM crops.
But Justice Kenneth Martin came down on
the side of Baxter when he delivered his judgment on
The Guardian, 28 May 2014
EU pesticide clampdown threatens
viability of UK crop industry
The viability of the UK crop sector is
under threat from moves to tighten EU pesticide regulations,
which could remove up to half the currently available crop
protection products, industry leaders have warned.
UK politicians have this week been urged
to ensure they make the scientific case at EU level against
unjustified restrictions which could render the UK
uncompetitive in the global crop market.
Last year’s suspension of vital
neonicotinoid seed dressing products could be just the start
of a wider EU clampdown on crop protection products.
Guardian, 23 May 2014
EU boasts high pesticide compliance
The European Food Safety Authority's
(EFSA) latest annual report on pesticide residues has found
that 97.5 per of some 79,000 food product samples tested
were within the maximum residue levels (MRLs) of pesticides
permitted in the EU. According to the EFSA, the report
contains findings from a record number of tests carried out
More pesticide residues exceeding the
MRLs were found in food imported from countries outside the
European Union (6.3 per cent) than in samples originating
from EU and European Free Trade Associations (1.5 per cent).
The EFSA report concludes that there is no
long-term risk to consumer health from dietary exposure from
99 per cent of 171 pesticides assessed.
EuroFruit, 21 May 2014
Innovation centres will help farmers
access 'big data'
The first UK innovation centre to launch under the
Government’s Agri-Tech Strategy should enable farmers to
access world class research and data which at one time may
have only benefited larger enterprises.
The new facility will be the Centre for Agricultural
Informatics and Sustainability Metrics and is expected to be
based inside a research facility already in operation. Defra
envisages it will be set up and operated by a single
consortium of publicly and privately-funded organisations,
with small and medium-sized businesses playing an
Ian Meikle who is head of agriculture and food for the
Government’s Technology Strategy Board said the challenge
would be to help all farmers benefit from data.
Farmers Guardian, 20 May 2014
GM crops benefit farmers and
environment. study claims
Farmers who grow biotech crops benefit
from increased yields and deliver more environmentally
friendly farming practices, a new global impacts study of
Biotech crops contributed to
significantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas
emissions from agricultural practices, according to the
GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts
published this week by UK-based consultancy PG Economics.
Farmers Weekly, 17 May 2014
Action needed to
address 'stagnation' in science and innovation
The UK farming industry is under threat
due to a major ‘slowdown’ in technology and innovation,
experts have claimed. Ten months on from the launch
of the Government’s £160 million Agri Tech strategy, leaders
in science and research said little had been done to bridge
the gap between ‘basic science and applied science’.
The UK has some of the best research
scientists and institutes in the world, but where it was
once comparable to other western European countries, it now
lags significantly behind major competitors in productivity
growth, which has stalled.
Royal Agricultural Society of England
(RASE) chief executive David Gardner said unless there was a
sea change in how knowledge was transferred into the field,
the UK would continue to fall behind countries such as the
USA, Netherlands and Spain.
Farmers Guardian, 16 May 2014
El Nino events can
have a significant impact on the yields of certain major
food crops, a study has shown. Researchers say the climatic
phenomenon, which triggers changes in temperature and
rainfall, can reduce maize yields by more than 4%.
El Nino episodes are caused by changes in
the sea surface temperature in the eastern tropical Pacific
Writing in Nature Communications,
the team said the data could be used by governments to
manage food supplies.
Up to 70 jobs
axed at James Hutton Institute amid cuts
Dozens of jobs are to be axed at a
leading Scottish farming and environmental research centre.
The James Hutton Institute, based in Invergowrie and
Aberdeen, is to cut up to 70 jobs as part of a voluntary
redundancy scheme aimed at reducing costs.
Chief executive Prof Iain Gordon said
the institute needed to adapt to an "ever-changing funding
environment". The voluntary redundancy scheme will be opened
to staff in May.
The institute, which operates a number
of farms leading research into crops including barley and
potatoes, has about 600 staff split between its two sites.
BBC News, 14 May 2014
Farmer-led research crucial for
A sustainable food supply hinges on
agricultural innovation, but current investments neglect a
key area for improving crop yields, according to new
The study, published in scientific
highlights the need for more research designed by and for
farmers as crucial to the chances of meeting the global
demand for food.
Agriculture: Engage farmers in
research, was written
jointly by the Soil Association’s director of innovation,
Tom MacMillan, and Professor Tim Benton of the UK’s Global
Food Security Programme. The paper suggests that investing
more research into smaller farming businesses could help
small-scale farmers boost yields to help sustainable
Weekly, 8 May 2014
reduces nutrients in food crops
New research, published in the
scientific journal Nature this week, has revealed
that higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will
have serious effects on the nutrients in a range of crop
plants – bad news for farmers, and consumers.
Based on predicted atmospheric CO2
levels for 2050, crops that provide a large share of the
global population with most of their dietary zinc and iron
will have lost a significant amount of these nutrients
within the next thirty years.
Farming Online, 8 May 2014
Joint action needed to tackle massive
global food losses
Tackling the world’s massive food loss
problem is a key to reducing hunger and poverty, but
governments and companies must step up their collaboration
on the issue, an international congress on food losses and
waste has heard.
Speaking at the 2nd SAVE FOOD International Congress in
Düsseldorf, FAO Assistant Director-General Ren Wang
underlined that effective coordination across all sectors
could make “a real difference” to one of the world’s major
food security challenges.
While 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger, around
1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year. FAO
estimates that the food produced but never eaten would be
sufficient to feed two billion people.Even just halving the
current level of losses would have a dramatic impact on the
projected 60 percent increase in food availability required
to feed a global population of 9 billion by 2050.
Farm Business, 8 May 2014
DEFRA plans to privatise part of science agency
sector companies are being invited to invest in the
government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA).
DEFRA has launched a
procurement exercise to seek a private sector business to
work as a partner for the organisation, a leader in
FERA currently provides a range of
scientific services across food and farming industries. It
runs more than 600 research projects each year. This
includes plant and bee health, sustainable crop production,
a badger vaccination project for bovine TB, and tackling ash
dieback, the fungus that decimated European ash trees.
Under the proposals, up to three-quarters
of FERA’s research would be undertaken by a joint venture
involving a private sector investor.
Farmers Weekly, 7 May 2014
Agri-Food businesses call for an EU
policy shift towards innovation
coalition of groups representing Europe’s agricultural and
food business interests is calling for better and smarter
policy-making that fosters innovation and creates jobs,
ensuring that the EU agri-food chain becomes more productive
The group of 11 EU-level
associations presented their joint "Vision for unlocking the
potential of agriculture and food industries in the EU"
during the meeting of EU Ministers for Agriculture in Athens
on 6 May.
coalition includes numerous agricultural input industries
such as suppliers of machinery, seed, fertilisers, crop
protection, animal health, feed and biotechnology-based
products, as well as the agricultural trade and of course EU
farmers and the European food and drink sector. Together,
these industries account for about 30 million jobs and 3.5%
of the EU’s gross value added.
Fresh Plaza, 6 May 2014
Insects could replace soya as
animal feed protein
Insects could replace soya as a cheap
and secure source of pig and poultry feed on farms across
Europe. Researchers think insects such as the common house
fly could be the way to end Europe’s dependency on imported
protein crops for animal feed.
As well as being cheaper than
conventional protein sources, they say animals actually
prefer insects to soya, and that insects help produce
Speaking at the British Society of
Animal Science at the University of Nottingham, Dr Adrian
Charlton of the Food and Environment Research Agency said
insects could eventually be a viable alternative to
1 May 2014
Climate change increases threat of wheat rust
Climate change is increasing the threat of emerging wheat
rusts that could have devastating effects on wheat
production in the UK, scientists have warned.
In recent years, aggressive new strains of wheat rusts, such
as yellow (stripe) rust and leaf stem rust, caused by
particular rust fungus, have wiped out up to 40% of harvests
in countries in Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.
And the threat of different rusts hitting UK wheat crops is
being intensified by climate change, according to
scientists. who are using wild grasses and barley to combat
Interested parties sought for 'world-class'
The Government is inviting proposals from businesses and
research institutions interested in coming together to form
a ‘world class’ centre to promote agricultural innovation.
The Government’s Agri-tech strategy, published last July,
committed £90 million to establish centres for agricultural
The overarching aim of the strategy is to encourage
businesses to develop, adapt and exploit new technologies
and the first centre would be a single point of access for
data on the agricultural industry.
Farmers Guardian, 23 April 2014
step in over land based skills gap
Education authorities are being urged
to offer more agricultural and land based courses to help
plug the widening skills gap in the agricultural sector.
It comes after an updated report by
sector skills council Lantra highlighted the need for
600,000 new recruits by 2020.
The report calls on education leaders
to bring ‘relevant subject matter’ to courses and focus on
the skills needed by the industry, as well as promoting the
right qualifications, training and career paths to young
people and adults.
Farmers Guardian, 22 April 2014
Trial of GM plants to help fight heart disease given
Scientists have been given permission to grow genetically
modified plants that could help protect against heart
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(Defra) has given the go-ahead for the field trial of a crop
of GM camelina plants, the seeds of which are modified to
produce fish oils. The oils could provide feed for farmed
fish, meaning that fewer fish need to be caught from the
sea, and ultimately could be used in health supplements or
as an additive in foods such as margarine.
Scientists at Rothamsted Research Centre in Hertfordshire
who will run the trial hailed the decision as a significant
milestone for research into genetically modified plants.
The Guardian, 17 April 2014
Agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions
on the rise
New FAO estimates of greenhouse gas data
show that emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries
have nearly doubled over the past fifty years and could
increase an additional 30 percent by 2050, without greater
efforts to reduce them.
This is the first time that FAO has released its own global
estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from
agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU),
contributing to the Fifth Assessment Report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Agricultural emissions from crop and livestock production
grew from 4.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents*
(CO2 eq) in 2001 to over 5.3 billion tonnes in 2011, a 14
percent increase. The increase occurred mainly in
developing countries, due to an expansion of total
Business, 13 April 2014
DEFRA slammed for stance on UK self-sufficiency
Farming leaders have criticised the government’s attitude
towards agriculture after farm minister George Eustice said
he was happy with the level of UK self-sufficiency in food.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith said he was
disappointed that Mr Eustice told a parliamentary committee
the government was content with current levels of
self-sufficiency – even though the UK produces just 62% of
its own food, down from 75% in 1991.
Giving evidence to the Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs Committee, Mr Eustice said: “Food security
is not just about self-sufficiency at a national level.
Actually having open markets and free trade globally has got
a very important role to play in making sure we have food
Weekly, 11 April 2014
Peter Kendall named as new AHDB
Former NFU president Peter Kendall has
been appointed chairman of the Agriculture and Horticulture
Mr Kendall takes up the role for a
three-year term with immediate effect. He replaces John
Godfrey, who stepped down after his term in office at the
end of March.
Funded by farmers and others in the supply
chain, the AHDB works to improve the competitiveness and
sustainability of agriculture and horticulture through
advice, information and promotional activity.
Farmers Weekly, 7 April 2014
Urgent action on food waste needed
The House of
Lords EU Committee has today called for urgent action on
food waste in Europe highlighting that at least 90 million
tonnes of food is wasted across the EU each year.
In a report published today, the
Committee urges action on the basis that food waste
represents a financial and environmental loss of resources.
The 15 million tonnes of food wasted in the UK each year
equates to a financial loss to business of at least £5
billion per year.
Environmentally, the carbon footprint of
worldwide food waste is equivalent to twice the global
greenhouse gas emission of all road transportation in the
Lords European Union Committee, 6 April 2014
Princess Anne: Gassing badgers is most
humane way to cull
Gassing is the most humane way to cull
badgers, the Princess Royal has said.
Princess Anne, who has lost 15 of her
rare breed cattle to bovine TB in the past two years, was
speaking to BBC One's Countryfile programme at her Gatcombe
Her comments come after the government
said it would not expand badger culling from two pilot culls
aimed at reducing TB in cattle. Defra said "initial
investigations" into the use of gas were taking place.
BBC News, 4 April 2014
Badger cull expansion abandoned after
The government has abandoned its planned
expansion of badger culling to reduce TB in cattle. The
environment department's original plan was to announce up to
10 new cull areas in South West England each year.
Defra's own independent
that culls in two pilot areas were not effective, and raised
questions about their humaneness.
These pilot culls will continue, though
there will be no independent oversight to assess their
BBC News, 3 April 2014
Animal lab cuts
‘pose threat to human health’
Cuts to animal health surveillance mean
Britain is at a much greater risk of outbreaks of
devastating diseases such as "mad cow disease", experts say.
The Royal College of Pathologists (RCP)
says human health could be at risk. The RCP is calling for
an urgent review of plans to cut the number of animal health
surveillance laboratories in England and Wales from 14 to
The Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs (Defra) says the cuts are part of an
BBC News, 1 April 2014
impacts 'overwhelming' - UN
The impacts of global warming are likely
to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible", a major report
by the UN has warned. Scientists and officials meeting in
Japan say the document is the most
comprehensive assessment to date of
the impacts of climate change on the world.
Members of the UN's climate panel say it
provides overwhelming evidence of the scale of these
Natural systems now bear the brunt, but a
growing impact on humans is feared. Our health, homes, food
and safety are all likely to be threatened by rising
temperatures, the summary says.
BBC News, 31 March 2014
£4 million for agricultural
Businesses including an urban farm and
spin-outs from universities across the UK have received a
share of £4 million of funding from government and industry
to develop their innovative business ideas.
The government funding comes from the
£70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst announced as part of the UK
Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies. It is
designed to support businesses and universities to bridge
the difficult gap between lab research and the marketplace.
Universities and Science Minister David
Willetts said: “The pioneering projects announced today are
the businesses of the future and this funding will make a
real difference in bringing innovative ideas from the lab to
the marketplace. This work is critical in supporting the
UK’s Agri-tech Strategy and our commitment to establish the
UK as a world leader in agriculture technology, innovation
Agriculture and Science Minister Lord De
Mauley said: “Farmers are the backbone of the £97 billion
agri-food sector. The 11 projects announced today will be
invaluable in helping them take advantage of the latest
science and innovation, supporting our world-class
agricultural technology sector.”
BIS/Defra/DfID, 28 March 2014
Climate change could prolong
world hunger for decades, says Oxfam
World hunger could be prolonged for decades because our
global food system is “woefully”
unprepared for the impacts of climate change, an Oxfam
report has warned.
The paper, titled Hot and
Hungry: How to stop climate change derailing the fight
says that rising temperatures, extreme weather and changing
rainfall patterns caused by climate change are already
affecting crop yields across the world.
Oxfam lists examples such as the
devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013, the
flooding of the Somerset Levels and
droughts in Brazil and California as recent disasters that
have threatened food production. Climate scientists have
already predicted that climate change will increase the
chances of similar weather events occurring around the
Blue & Green Tomorrow, 26
British food too
cheap warns supply chain expert
The continual drive to produce the
cheap food that fuels supermarket competition is having a
damaging effect on the environment and agricultural
biodiversity, as well as the capacity of the land to
continue to produce food sustainably.
Speaking about food poverty and the
constant push to make food cheaper, Ralph Early, who is head
of the food science and agri-food supply chain management at
Harper Adams, warned the days of cheap food must draw to a
He said: “Some people believe that the
simple solution to food poverty is to make food cheaper,
which often means producing cheaper raw materials. But, if
we are at all concerned with agricultural sustainability and
the capacity of the land to feed us long into the future, we
must ask ourselves whether food in Britain is actually too
Farmers Guardian, 24 March 2014
Heatwaves could threaten frood
crops, study warns
Future heatwaves could threaten key global
food crops if climate change is not addressed, according to a
British study. Researchers came to the conclusion after
estimating the effects of extreme temperatures and raised
carbon dioxide levels on maize, wheat and soybean
While more C02 in the atmosphere may
boost plant growth, this effect is likely to be counteracted
by extreme heat, they warn. Crops are especially vulnerable
to heat around anthesis, the flowering period of the plant.
“At this stage, extreme temperatures can
lead to reduced pollen sterility and reduced seed set,
greatly reducing the crop yield,” said lead scientist
Delphine Deryng, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change
Research at the University of East Anglia.
The Guardian, 20 March 2014
agriculture research body failed to deliver ‘value for
A body doing crucial work for the
agri-food industry has failed to deliver good value for
money on £253m of spending, a report has found.
The report by the Public Accounts
Committee (Pac) at Stormont stated management of the
Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) had been
The institute was set-up in 2006 and is
run by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
It carries out scientific research.
News, 19 March 2014
Researchers aim to develop
portable TB testing device
Scientists say they are in the process of
developing a portable testing device capable of detecting
bovine TB (bTB) in cattle in just a matter of minutes
In a three-year study, at Nottingham
Trent University (NTU), co-funded by the Technology Strategy
Board, scientists are identifying ‘biological markers’ – or
molecules – in the blood, which indicate the presence of
The next stage of this, the subject of a
£1.1 million collaborative study, is to develop a rapid
‘point of care’ device, about the size of a smartphone, that
could be used by vets to give ‘an almost instant diagnosis
from a simple blood test at farm sites’.
Guardian, 19 March 2014
to hit crop yields sooner than thought
New research, led by scientists at the
University of Leeds, has shown that global warming of only
2°C will be detrimental to crops in temperate and tropical
regions alike, and that changes will begin to have marked
effects on yields sooner than had been anticipated.
According to the scientists, yields
could begin falling from the 2030s onwards.
Professor Andy Challinor, from the
University's School of Earth and Environment led the study.
Prof Challinor said, "Our research shows that crop yields
will be negatively affected by climate change much earlier
than expected… The impact of climate change on crops will
vary both from year-to-year and from place-to-place – with
the variability becoming greater as the weather becomes
Farming Online, 17 March 2014
David Cameron's science advisers
call for expansion of GM crops
David Cameron's official science advisers have
called for GM crops
to be rolled out across the UK by scrapping "dysfunctional"
EU regulations that risk curtailing future food supplies.
"We take it for granted that because our
supermarket shelves are groaning with food, there are no
problems with the food supply, but there are," said
government's chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir Mark
Walport, citing rising global population, limited farmland
and climate change. "If we don't use GM the risk is people
In a report published on Friday, the
scientists say GM crops should face the same regulation as
conventional crops and that the UK government should take
back powers from Brussels to be able to unilaterally approve
the growing of GM crops across the UK.
The Guardian, 14 March 2014
Environment groups condemn GM
Environment groups have written to the
Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to condemn
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s support for growing GM
crops in Britain. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth,
GeneWatch UK, GM Freeze and the Soil Association expressed
concerns that controversial Roundup Ready GM crops might be
planted in England as early as Spring 2015.
At the EU’s March Environment Council meeting Paterson
supported a proposal that would fast-track GM crops for
commercial cultivation in pro-GM countries, while allowing
anti-GM countries to opt out. more
Farming UK, 11 March 2014
technology to maintain food security’, says CLA
The CLA has told the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Select Committee that the UK
must invest in technology to protect food security. Giving
evidence, CLA President Henry Robinson told the Committee
that a massive rise in the global demand for food needs to
be tackled by utilising new technology.
CLA President Henry Robinson said: “The UK has been slow to
recognise the full range of techniques available to improve
farming methods. China’s changing diet and the expected rise
of Asian middle classes from 500 million people to three
billion in just 15 years will considerably impact meat and
“The arable sector has a greater capacity to invest in these
precision technologies and reap the rewards of the huge
opportunities that are available. However, livestock farmers
need help if they are to facilitate the new technology.”
Farm Business, 6 March 2014
Virtual honey bee colony could measure effects of
Scientists have created a computer model which simulates a
honey bee colony in order to see how bees are affected by
environmental changes such as pesticide use. The BEEHAVE
model, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, was
created to investigate the losses of honey bee colonies and
to identify the best course of action for improving bee
It simulates the life of a colony including the queen’s egg
laying, brood care by nurse bees and foragers collecting
nectar and pollen in a realistic landscape.
The project, which was funded by an Industrial Partnership
Award from BBSRC with co-funding from Syngenta, will also
investigate the use of pesticides on bee populations.
Farmers Guardian, 4 March 2014
decline ‘threatens food security’
Fewer crop species are feeding the
world than 50 years ago - raising concerns about the
resilience of the global food system, a study has shown.
The authors warned a loss of diversity
meant more people were dependent on key crops, leaving them
more exposed to harvest failures.
Higher consumption of energy-dense
crops could also contribute to a global rise in heart
disease and diabetes, they added. The study appears in the
BBC News, 3 March 2014
MEPs call on EU to support a competitive
plant breeding sector
The European Parliament is urging the
European Commission to boost investment in EU plant breeding
research to help Europe’s farmers meet future food needs and
cope with climate change.
This week, MEPs adopted a report from the Agriculture
Committee highlighting the critical importance of having an
effective and competitive European plant breeding industry,
and calling on the Commission to step up its efforts to
create a coherent and long-term framework for plant breeding
research in the EU.
In particular, the report highlights the need for
higher-yielding varieties to meet increased demands for food
and feed, and for plant breeding research to focus on
developing crops with improved resilience to more extreme
weather conditions and new disease challenges.
Farm Business, 28 February
More than 20,000 crops from more than 100
nations have arrived at a "Doomsday vault" in the Arctic
The latest delivery coincides with the
sixth anniversary of the frozen depository in Svalbard,
which now houses
more than 800,000 samples. The shipment includes the first
offering from Japan, where collections were threatened by
the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
The facility is designed to withstand all
natural and human disasters.
by-product could be used to protect soil quality
at the BBSRC strategically-funded institute Rothamsted
Research have shown that a waste product from biodiesel
manufacture could be used to protect soil quality for
An important goal in agricultural
sustainability is to establish better management of nitrogen
(N) to prevent "leaching" of nitrate (NO3) out of
the soil into water.
BBSRC, 24 February 2014
East Anglian researchers in race to
develop new higher-yielding wheats
Arable farmers have been struggling for
the past two decades to boost average production as national
yields have been on a plateau.
The opportunity to smash through this yield barrier has long
been a goal of plant breeders and scientists but a team of
researchers at Cambridge has achieved some dramatic progress
with a potential “superwheat.”
Even a yield improvement of about 15pc on
the country’s farms could be worth an estimated £416m, said
Prof Andy Greenland, who is NIAB’s director of genetics and
He leads the six-strong team at the National Institute of
Agricultural Botany, which was established in 1919 at
Cambridge, and has been shortlisted for an Innovator of the
Eastern Daily Press, 22
farming: a grass roots approach
Scientists at two BBSRC-funded
institutes – Aberystwyth University's Institute of
Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) and
Rothamsted Research North Wyke in Devon – are developing new
grasses that enable soils to capture increased volumes of
rainfall, thereby reducing the risk of flooding downstream.
The 5 year £2.5M LINK project named
SUREROOT is funded by BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological
Sciences Research Council), and match-funded by a range of
industrial partners from across the food production
spectrum, including a seed company, a major retailer and the
meat, poultry and dairy industry.
BBSRC, 20 February 2014
modified potatoes ‘resist late blight’
British scientists have developed
genetically modified potatoes that are resistant to the
vegetable's biggest threat - blight. A three-year trial has
shown that these potatoes can thrive despite being exposed
to late onset blight. That disease has plagued farmers for
generations and it triggered the Irish potato famine in the
EU approval is needed before commercial
cultivation of this GM crop can take place. The research is
published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the
Royal Society B.
BBC News, 17 February 2014
Scientists identify TB-resistant genes
Scientists have identified genetic traits in cattle that
could allow farmers to breed livestock with increased
resistance to bovine tuberculosis (bTB).The
research, led by the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin
Institute, compared the genes of TB-infected and
disease-free Holstein Friesian cows.
They were able to identify a number of
genetic signatures associated with TB resistance in the cows
that remained unaffected.
Researchers at the institute said the
latest finding is significant as it sheds further light on
whether it might be possible to improve TB control through
Farmers Weekly, 13 February 2014
EU set to grow more GM maize despite
The EU is set to approve a new type of
genetically modified maize for cultivation despite huge
opposition. The European Commission says the US-developed
maize variety, called Pioneer 1507, is safe and the decision
is now in the Commission's hands.
Most EU governments objected to it in a
vote, but the vote tally was still not enough to block it.
Under EU rules, the Commission can now authorise it. Only
one GM crop - another maize variety - is grown in the EU
BBC News, 11 February 2014
High-oleic hemp may be low-input OSR alternative
Hemp crops producing oil with similar qualities to olive oil
could become an alternative to oilseed rape in UK rotations,
but without many of the disease and pest problems seen with
Scientists at the University of York
have successfully developed hemp plants with a dramatically
increased content of oleic acid, the fatty acid more often
associated with olive and rapeseed oils.
Farmers Weekly, 10 February 2014
Organic farming 'boosts biodiversity and bees'
Organic farms support 34% more plant, insect and animal
species on average compared with conventional farms,
according to Oxford academics.
from the University of Oxford reviewed farm data going back
30 years and they concluded that organic farms yielded
greater biodiversity benefits than intensively-farmed land.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology,
also found that on average, non-organic farms have about 50%
fewer species of pollinators, such as bees, than organic
“Our study has shown that organic
farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can
yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity,” said
Sean Tuck, study lead author, of Oxford University’s
department of plant sciences.
Farmers Weekly, 4 February 2014
New funding to
create healthier and safer food
A low calorie chocolate that tastes
just as good as the real thing and a white bread with high
fibre are just two of the projects being funded that could
make a difference to your diet and health in the future.
£8.5M is being invested in almost 40
research projects by BBSRC, the Technology Strategy Board
and other partners to tackle issues around nutritional
values, food safety, specific dietary requirements and food
Other innovations being developed
include a project to identify foods that could treat
osteoporosis, and studies assessing the potential for using
pumpkin and mulberry extracts to help treat diabetes and
Technology Strategy Board, 3 February 2014
Finnish study finds
neonicotinoids do not harm bees
findings from a Finnish study on the use of neonicotinoid
pesticides on field crops suggest they may not cause acute
harm to bees.
The Neomehi Project in Finland is
studying how neonicotinoid-based insecticides used in the
cultivation of spring oilseed rape and spring turnip rape
plants affects honeybees.
Based on the first set of test results,
researchers said they suggested neonicotinoids do not cause
immediate harm to honeybees.
Farmers Weekly, 2 February 2014
Environment Minister launches
Agricultural Engineering Innovation Centre
A £2.9 million
centre to support advanced agricultural engineering teaching
and research was today (30 January) launched at Shropshire’s
Harper Adams University.
Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under
Secretary of State for natural environment and science,
conducted the official opening of The Agricultural
Engineering Innovation Centre (AEIC). The Environment
Minister said: “Harper Adams’s new £2.9m Agricultural
Engineering Innovation Centre for precision agriculture is a
world class example of the innovation and agri-engineering
expertise we have in the UK.
“We need to do all we can to translate
research into new products, processes and technologies if we
are to increase the competitiveness of the agricultural
sector, address the challenge of food security and enhance
Farming Monthly, 30 January
UK could fall behind without
investment in plant science
A funding shortfall is threatening the UK’s position as a world leader in
plant science, a new report has claimed.
Researchers from the UK Plant Sciences Federation said the industry
played a vital role in guaranteeing food security, coping
with the threats from climate change, protecting
biodiversity, and improving human health.
However, they claim a lack of investment in the industry coupled with a
skills shortage could be detrimental to the industry if the
gloomy trend is not addressed soon.
The report calls for a doubling of investment in UK
plant science, which currently receives less than 4 per cent
of public research funding.
Farmers Guardian, 28 January 2014
Chair of APPG appointed UK trade
Freeman, MP for Mid-Norfolk and Chair of the APPG on Science
and Technology in Agriculture, has been appointed a UK Trade
Envoy by the Prime Minister.
The announcement was made at the close
of the Davos World Economic Forum, as part of an expansion
of the UK's global trade and inward investment mission
spearheaded by UKTI.
George Freeman, elected to Parliament in 2010 for the new
constituency of Mid Norfolk after a career in the Eastern
Region founding high growth start-up technology businesses,
was appointed Government Adviser on Life Sciences in 2011
and has been closely involved in the launch of the UK's
Industrial Strategies for Agri-Tech and Life Sciences.
Farming UK, 27 January 2014
Genetically-modified purple tomatoes
heading for shops
The prospect of
genetically modified purple tomatoes reaching the shelves
has come a step closer.
Their dark pigment
is intended to give tomatoes the same potential health
benefits as fruit such as blueberries.Developed in Britain,
large-scale production is now under way in Canada with the
first 1,200 litres of purple tomato juice ready for
The pigment, known as anthocyanin, is
an antioxidant which studies on animals show could help
fight cancer. Scientists say the new tomatoes could improve
the nutritional value of everything from ketchup to pizza
BBC News, 24 January 2014
‘Fish oil’ GM plant trial application
An application to
conduct field trials of a genetically modified crop
containing Omega-3 fatty acids normally found in oily fish
has been submitted. If approved by the government, the
trials could begin at Rothamsted Research agricultural
institute in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, this year.
The initial aim of
the crop is to benefit the fish farming industry, the
researchers said. But in a decade it could end up in food
products, such as margarine.
The scientists at
Rothamsted Research - who have been working on the project
for 15 years - modified seeds from Camelina sativa (false
flax) plants using genes from marine algae - the primary
organisms that produce the fatty acids.
By substituting synthetic versions of
up to seven genes from marine algae, the researchers have
engineered Camelina plants to produce two key Omega-3 fatty
acids normally obtained from oily fish, EPA and DHA.
BBC News, 24 January 2014
discuss threat of 'over cautious' pesticide rules
Over-precautionary regulations on
pesticides are hampering UK farmers’ ability to produce
food, the NFU has warned.
Ahead of a summit on Wednesday (January
22) to discuss concerns over crop protection, NFU president
Peter Kendall said the ever increasing regulatory pressure
meant farmers were facing a growing challenge to produce the
high quality British food consumers want.
Leading industry figures from farming,
agricultural chemical manufacturing and crop protection
distribution will meet at the union’s Stoneleigh
Farmers Guardian, 20 January 2014
Campaign launched to warn farmers of illegal pesticides
A national campaign warning farmers of the risks of
buying illegal pesticides has been launched.
Watch Out! for illegal pesticides is the message of the
12-month industry campaign launched to raise public
awareness of illegal pesticides.
The Voluntary Initiative (VI) and Red
Tractor Assurance is supporting the drive, with funding from
the Crop Protection Association, NFU and Agricultural
17 January 2014
New research funding to combat
A major £1.4m international research
project aimed at combating a key disease in wheat is set to
take place in the east of England.
The John Innes Centre in Norwich and NIAB
in Cambridge will provide the base for one year of a project
developing genetically resistant wheat varieties.
Four PhD students appointed in India,
Kenya and Ethiopia will spend one year abroad in one of the
UK partner institutions, which also includes The Sainsbury’s
Laboratory in Norwich. The move comes as part of a major
international effort to improve crop production in
developing countries and combat disease.
Farmers Weekly, 14 January 2014
Hostility to GM putting EU in
'global slow lane' - report
The growing influence of green lobbyists
and anti-capitalists on European policymaking is condemning
the EU the ‘global slow lane’ when it comes to
biotechnology, an MP has warned.
George Freeman, chairman of the All Party
Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture, said
‘growing hostility’ to technologies like GM is already
forcing some of the biggest biotechnology companies to
abandon Europe as a market.
The UK and the rest of the EU are in
danger of missing out on the ‘major opportunity’ presented
by the revolution in the field of genomics to support
farmers in boosting food production while also creating
‘huge new inward investment and export opportunities’,
according to the Norfolk MP.
Guardian, 14 January 2014
Norfolk MP says EU’s hostility towards science is hampering
The rise of an “increasingly
science hostile” European Union is undermining our
attractiveness as a place to invest, MP George Freeman has
said while calling for reform or the UK would try to “take
back” science regulation from Brussels.
The Norfolk MP will today publish a report for the
European reform project, Fresh Start, in which he highlights
an increasing tide of “anti-biotech” legislation.
He said the EU’s hostility to Genetically
Modified crops had already seen German based BASF and US
major Monsanto announcing its withdrawal from Europe in
agricultural research and development, adding that EU
policymaking machine was being driven by “increasingly
strident and politically active biotech-hostile lobbying
groups, and minority political parties exercising influence
through the coalition politics of member states.”
Eastern Daily Press, 10 January 2014
presents opportunities for farming
technological revolution in British agriculture presents
huge opportunities for UK farming, according to Tory MP
Mr Freeman was speaking at the Oxford
Farming Conference on the potential impact of the
government’s £160m agri-tech strategy.
Mr Freeman, the Tory MP for mid-Norfolk,
said that the pace of economic development in
industrialising countries was “utterly breathtaking” and
would lead to more pressures, but also opportunities, which
the strategy could make use of.
Farmers Weekly, 9 January 2014
New GM plants could help to feed world — if Luddites don’t
interfere, say farmers
A new, less intrusive way of genetically engineering plants
would help to feed the world’s growing population but is at
risk from the same “Luddite attitudes” blocking GM crops,
according to a farming industry report.
The technology, known as cisgenics, involves transferring
genes from closely related plant species rather than
genetically modifying crops by importing “foreign” genes. It
more closely resembles conventional breeding but uses
similar technology to GM methods.
The report, being debated today at the Oxford Farming
Conference, says: “New technology, post GM, is emerging but
must not be allowed to fall victim to the same Luddite
attitudes which have left Europe isolated from transgenic
technology. The cost of doing so would be catastrophic in
terms of food production failing to increase to feed the
world’s growing population.”
The Times, 7 January 2014
Wheat promiscuity holds key to yields
have sex with anything. That observation from Keith
Woodward, professor of cereal genomics at Bristol
University, holds the key to breaking the yield plateau, he
said at a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research
Council fringe meeting at the Oxford Farming Conference.
“promiscuity”’ to cross with plants outside its genus, such
as grasses with significantly better photosynthetic
efficiency, offers breeders great scope to increase yields.
Prof Woodward explained that a
six-year collaboration between John Innes, NIAB, Rothamsted
and Nottingham and Bristol universities called WISP (Wheat
Improvement Strategic Programme) to identify new genetics is
going “remarkably well”. Now halfway through the programme
the partnership have identified 80,000 gene markers and are
on course to have 820,000 by the end of this month.
Farmers Weekly, 7 January 2014
Designer plants have vital fish oils in their seeds
Move over, cod liver oil. A biofuel crop related to
cabbages, called camelina, has been genetically modified to
produce components of fish oils beneficial for
cardiovascular health. The approach could relieve some of
the pressure on the oceans.
The flesh of oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, plus the
livers of white fish such as cod, are good sources of
omega-3 fatty acids. The most important ones are
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – known to reduce the risk of
heart disease – and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – a lack of
which has been linked to visual and cognitive problems.
New Scientist, 2 January 2014
Step forward in quest for second
Researchers from the Department of Chemistry at York have
discovered a family of enzymes that can degrade
hard-to-digest biomass into its constituent sugars.
The scientists said their research
could unlock the potential for 'second generation' biofuels
– those which are not produced from agricultural crops.
Within the EU, debate is raging over support for first
generation biofuels, which do come from agricultural
Farming Online, 30 December 2013
Britain advised to ignore EU and
reap GM benefits
Britain is missing out on the benefits
of genetically modified crops because of Europe’s “medieval”
attitude towards the technology, the Environment Minister
Owen Paterson told a parliamentary
meeting this week that Europe was becoming “the museum of
world farming” because Austria and France were blocking the
cultivation of GM crops on European soil.
Despite GM products being consistently
ruled as safe by the European regulator, “product after
product goes through this rigorous process and then gets
stuck at the political level where witchcraft is
re-imposed,” he told the All-Party Group on Science and
Technology in Agriculture this week. “Decisions are made on
pure emotion and the science is ignored.”
Times, 21 December 2013