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UK and India collaborate on future-proof crops

  • Drought-tolerant tomatoes, improved wheat and grass pea could provide crops for the future

Seven new research projects have been launched today to help provide new or improved crops for the future. The projects involve collaborations between researchers in the UK and India and aims to provide crops suitable for a changing climate and to produce more food with fewer inputs.

The research has been made possible thanks to £5M funding from the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and matched resources from India's Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

These projects are an excellent example of the potential benefits of agricultural technologies. Combining the UK's expertise in plant science, bioinformatics and genomics with research strengths in India will help to provide new crops for farmers worldwide.

Professor Jackie Hunter, Chief Executive, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: "These projects combine the strengths of researchers in India and the UK to help provide solutions to increasing food demands. Advances in sequencing, genomic and bioinformatic tools enable us to improve crops more rapidly than ever before to facilitate the step-change in agricultural productivity that will be required to feed the world sustainably."

The projects include: enhancing the nutritional value of a flood and drought tolerant, but toxic pea into a safe crop; improving wheat to make it more tolerant to drought; identifying genes that could make crops resistant to pests and diseases to reduce the need for chemical sprays; producing drought-tolerant tomatoes; and improving seed quality in oilseed rape.

Prof K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Indian Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, said: "BBSRC and DBT have long worked together in areas of mutual strategic interest. This time the cooperation between the UK and Indian researchers aims to improve crop production addressing problems of disease and drought in crops; using pooled knowledge to improve both quality and quantity of the of food produce"

Research Councils UK India played a vital role in facilitating this co-funded programme between BBSRC and DBT, and to continue bringing together the best researchers in the UK and India.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The funded projects are:

  1. A genomics-assisted synthetic hexaploid wheat gene isolation and pre-breeding platform for improved heat tolerance and sustainable production
    • UK investigator: Prof Greenland, National Institute of Agricultural Botany
    • Indian investigator: Dr Sarinder Kaur, Punjab Agricultural University
  2. Rapid identification of disease resistance genes from plant genomes by resistance gene enrichment sequencing (RenSeq) of EMS-derived susceptible mutants
    • UK investigator: Dr Brande B.H. Wulff, The John Innes Centre
    • Indian investigator: Dr Parveen Chhuneja, Punjab Agricultural University
  3. Developing genetics and genomics interface to develop strategies for sustainable use of resistance to white rust in oilseed mustard (Brassica juncea)
    • UK investigator: Prof Eric Holub, The University of Warwick
    • Indian investigator: Dr Deepak Pental, University of Delhi
  4. Combining field phenotyping and next generation genetics to uncover markers, genes and biology underlying drought tolerance in wheat
    • UK investigator: Dr Anthony Hall, University of Liverpool
    • Indian investigator: Dr. Pradeep Sharma, Crop Improvement (Plant Biotechnology), Directorate of Wheat Research (ICAR), Karnal
  5. Genomics-assisted selection of Solanum chilense introgression lines for enhancing drought resistance in tomatoes
    • UK investigator: Dr Andrew Thompson, Cranfield University
    • Indian investigator: Dr H.C.Prasanna, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi
  6. Broadening the genetic diversity underpinning seed quality and yield traits in mustard rape and oilseed rape
    • UK investigator: Dr Ian Bancroft, University of York
    • Indian investigator: Dr Akshay Pradhan, University of Delhi, South Campus
  7. Detoxed grass pea: sustainable sustenance for stressful environments
    • UK investigator: Dr Cathie Martin, John Innes Centre
    • Indian investigator: Dr Jayanta Tarafdar, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, West Bengal

About the Department of Biotechnology

DBT, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, gives a new impetus to the development of the field of modern biology and biotechnology in India. DBT has promoted and accelerated the pace of development of biotechnology in India and is a key partner of the UK and other international agencies. DBT has made significant achievements in the growth and application of biotechnology in the broad areas of agriculture, health care, animal sciences, environment, and industry.

About Research Councils UK (RCUK) India

RCUK India plays a key role in enhancing the UK-India relationship in science and research. Since 2008, RCUK, the Government of India and third parties have together invested over £150M in co-funded research programmes. Through these research programmes, RCUK India supports a strong, strategic and mutually beneficial partnership with India. This partnership continues to grow and strengthen the future of research to benefit society and enhance the prosperity of the UK, India and the world at large. www.rcuk.ac.uk/international/Offices/OfficeinIndia

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £484M (2013-2014), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk.
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes.

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Tags: crops data environmental change farming genetics RCUK partnerships BBSRC press release