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International awards boost crop science research

21 September 2006

Three new crop science awards worth over £2M have been made by a unique Anglo-French partnership between the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), set up to encourage international collaboration.

The aim of the four-year projects is to draw on the complementary experience and field expertise of researchers in the UK and France, to help translate basic plant science research into practical information for crop and agronomic improvements. BBSRC is investing £1.6 million in the three projects with INRA providing a similar level of support in their institutes.

The new projects are being undertaken by three university and institute consortia, the first is the University of Cambridge, Rothamsted Research, INRA Grignon and INRA Rennes, the second is the University of York and INRA Montpellier and the third is the University of Nottingham, the John Innes Centre, Rothamsted Research, INRA Clermont-Ferrand and INRA Mons-Peronne.

BBSRC and INRA joined forces last year to support crop science following a recommendation made in the BBSRC Crop Science review that the UK community should increase collaboration with European partners. These are the first three projects to receive funding following the review.

Professor Julia Goodfellow, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: “Collaborative programmes such as these are crucial in furthering our knowledge of crop science. With climate change, changing food demands and the emergence of new pests and diseases, the need to work with international partners to maximise information sharing and effective use of resources is greater than ever.”


Notes to editors

The three projects which have been awarded the grants are:

Epidemiological and evolutionary models for invasion and persistence of disease
Researchers from the University of Cambridge, Rothamsted Research, INRA Grignon and INRA Rennes will look at how a combination of mathematical modelling and experimental techniques can be used to predict and manage evolutionary changes in pathogen populations in order to prevent disease invasion in crops.

Potassium transport and compartmentation in cereals; improving plant potassium nutrition and tolerance to abiotic stress
Researchers from the University of York and INRA Montpellier will examine the genes involved in the transport of sodium and potassium in barley and rice to explore whether a greater understanding of their mechanisms may help develop improved crop varieties which are then more able to grow in poor soil conditions.

Traits and markers to reduce the nitrogen requirement of wheat
Researchers from the University of Nottingham, the John Innes Centre, Rothamsted Research, INRA Clermont-Ferrand and INRA Mons-Peronne will examine the traits and genes which enable some wheat varieties to produce more yield with less nitrogen, with the aim of discovering how farmers may be able to use less nitrogen fertiliser in the future.

BBSRC commissioned a review of Crop Science, published in 2004 and one of the findings of the review was that BBSRC should take the lead in the development of international programmes.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

About INRA

For 60 years, INRA has been developing research in the areas of agriculture, food and nutrition and the environment, with an eye to social issues and a focus on excellence. The Institute has produced knowledge and innovations which initially contributed to the modernisation of French agriculture after the war and then accompanied the expansion of the agri-food industry in the 1960-70's. INRA committed itself to the construction of European research 20 years ago and has since strengthened its international partnerships. Research topics, methods and professions have changed considerably in order to adapt to the complexity of today's research priorities that often require multidisciplinary approaches, adapted to the study of a global production system and worldwide exchanges, with the pooling of research expertise within the framework of partnership structures.

External contact

Dr Hélène Lucas, INRA

tel: 01 30 83 34 73

Sylvie Colleu, Press Office, INRA

tel: 01 42 75 91 69


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382