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CIRC: Background

Worldwide food security is becoming an increasingly important issue and is a major strategic priority for BBSRC. An increasing global population combined with global climate change, the potential spread of newly emerging diseases of livestock and crops, and economic issues such as the volatility of oil prices threaten global food security and an urgent response is required. To coordinate research efforts in this area we are leading the development of a food security programme together with other funders.

As a result of discussion with industry and direction from our Bioscience for Industry Strategy Panel, crop improvement has been identified as an area where increased investment in research activity would underpin the needs of the crop production and processing industry to address the challenges of climate change and food security.

To bring together industry and the research community to support research in the area of crop improvement BBSRC, the Scottish Government and industry have launched a Crop Improvement Research Club (CIRC). CIRC will support research on oilseed rape, barley and wheat and their uses in food production for humans and animals.

14 companies have agreed to join CIRC to date. CIRC will support research projects from a joint fund totalling £7.06M:

  • £560k - Industrial membership subscriptions
  • £500k - Scottish Government
  • £6M - BBSRC

Research challenges

There is an urgent need to develop crop varieties with greater yield potential and the ability to deliver this sustainably with reduced inputs and without detrimental effects on the local ecosystem. Equally, new crop varieties are required that reliably and consistently produce high quality products that are safe, nutritious and meet end-user requirements.

The challenge for industry will be to achieve high yielding, high quality varieties that perform well in a commercial context against a background of greater environmental instability; particularly as a result of climate change.


To develop a greater understanding of quality and yield traits and of the complex genetic and environmental factors affecting them.

Some important research challenges highlighted by industry are listed below:

  • Increasing nutrient use efficiency
  • Combating pests and diseases
  • Increasing yield potential
  • Seed structure and composition
    • Protein quality and functionality in wheat
    • Non-starch polysaccharide functionality in wheat and barley
    • Starch functionality in wheat and barley
    • White wheat varieties
    • High malt yield in barley
  • Germination properties
  • Spoilage factors
    • Reducing the occurrence of mycotoxins
    • Climate related spoilage

These are general research challenges for CIRC, however, individual calls may focus on specific priorities.

Further information on CIRC's research challenges can be found in the downloads section.

Steering Group and management

Mr Keith Norman - Velcourt
Dr Anna Amtmann - University of Glasgow
Dr Simon Berry - Limagrain UK Ltd
Professor Ian Bancroft - John Innes Centre
Dr Dhan Bhandari - HGCA
Dr James Brosnan - SWRI (The Scotch Whisky Research Institute)
Professor John Foulkes - The University of Nottingham
Dr Peter Jack - RAGT Seeds Ltd
Professor Peter Kettlewell - Harper Adams University College
Professor Sam Millar - Campden BRI
Professor Peter Shewry - Rothamsted Research
Dr Graham Teakle - The University of Warwick
Dr William Thomas - Scottish Crop Research Institute
Dr Peter Werner - KWS UK Ltd