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Delivering sustainable food security, a new science strategy for Rothamsted Research

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18 November 2011

Rothamsted Research, an institute strategically funded by BBSRC, has today launched a new science strategy, Where Knowledge Grows.

The new Strategy aims to deliver the knowledge and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production.

Rothamsted Research is a national institute of bioscience. Over its 168 year history it has continuously delivered agricultural innovation, for example the discovery of pyrethroid insecticides.

Rothamsted Director Maurice Moloney said, "Rothamsted's strength lies in its ability to move with the times and embrace the evolving scientific challenges through creativity and ingenuity". He added that "This Strategy will deliver the new scientific knowledge that can be translated into robust technologies to improve crop yields, enhance nutrition, contribute to energy security, reduce the carbon-footprint of farming and protect and nurture the agricultural environment".

The new Strategy focuses on a dynamic and integrated approach to crop science, allowing plants to be studied from within (e.g. molecular level) as well as from their interactions with the environment (air, soil, water etc). This Strategy will be delivered through 4 themes:

  • 20:20 wheat: Increasing wheat productivity to yield 20 tonnes per hectare in 20 years
  • Cropping carbon: Optimising carbon capture by grasslands and perennial energy crops, such as Willow, to help underpin the UK's transition to a low carbon economy
  • Designing seeds: Harnessing our expertise in seed biology and biochemistry to deliver improved health and nutrition through seeds
  • Delivering sustainable systems: Designing, modelling and assessing sustainable agricultural systems that increase productivity while minimising environmental impact

We believe that it is possible to provide secure and increasing amounts of healthy food and make a contribution to the supply of renewable energy without reducing other ecosystem services. We will aim to show how such systems can be delivered through research into better ways of managing pest control, biodiversity, grazed grassland and soils with the overall goal of designing and quantifying sustainable systems. BBSRC Chief Executive, Professor Douglas Kell welcomed the Strategy saying "Rothamsted Research has a unique role to play in helping BBSRC to deliver our strategy for the benefit of the UK and beyond. We invest around £23M a year in Rothamsted science, people and equipment. We do so because it represents one of the best ways for the UK to meet the serious challenges we face in providing food security and in alternatives to fossil-based fuels and products.

He also applauded the environment fostered at the Rothamsted Research sites, saying "the unique infrastructure and the close links to UK and international end-users all mean that Rothamsted Research has an exceptionally important role to play in the coming years."

Professor Nick Talbot, Chair of Rothamsted Board of Directors said "If the world is to deal with the global imperative of ensuring food security in the future, then it will need the expertise of Rothamsted Research and the ideas developed in its new Strategy. The UK can play a leading part in meeting one of humanity's greatest ever challenges, by investing in its world-leading research institutes. Rothamsted will be at the very forefront of making the scientific discoveries that will lead to highly productive, sustainable agriculture for the future".

ENDS

About The strategic themes

20:20 wheat is based on the premise that wheat provides a fifth of the calories used by man, but since 1980 the rate of increase in wheat yields has declined. The average farm yield of wheat in the UK is currently 8.4 tonnes per hectare. Our aim is to provide the knowledge base and tools to increase UK wheat yield potential to 20 tonnes of wheat per hectare within the next 20 years.

Cropping carbon aims to provide renewable and sustainable alternatives for fossil fuel-based products and to translate these into robust technologies and practices that can be used by policymakers, agribusinesses and energy companies to help the UK meet its ambitious target of 80% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Designing seeds is based on the premise that seeds are major components in a wide range of foods and animal feeds, so their composition is an important determinant of nutritional value. We will focus on understanding and optimising the nutritional value of the seeds of two crops, wheat and brassicas, with the aim of enhancing their impact on health and well-being.

Delivering sustainable systems is based on the premise that it is possible to provide secure and increasing amounts of healthy food and make a contribution to the supply of renewable energy without reducing other ecosystem services. We aim to show how such systems can be delivered through research into better ways of managing pest control, biodiversity, grazed grassland and soils with the overall goal of designing and quantifying sustainable systems.

About Rothamsted Research

Rothamsted Research is almost certainly the oldest agricultural research station in the world. Over its 168 year history, Rothamsted Research has built an enviable reputation for world-class scientific research to deliver knowledge, innovation and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality, and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for agriculture. It is a national institute of bioscience strategically funded by the BBSRC and receives a total of £23.8M in strategic programme grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. For more information see: www.rothamsted.ac.uk.

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 £445M, 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 .