Rothamsted Research has secured government funding to kick-start its new five-year strategic programme, Smart Crop Protection, to control sustainably the pests, pathogens and weeds that destroy nearly a third of crops grown worldwide. The investment of circa £6.3 million covers the programme’s first three years.
The announcement of the investment from the government’s flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) comes from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Rothamsted’s SCP strategy will improve crop productivity by using the latest technology to detect, monitor, predict and control insect pests, plant pathogens and weeds. The programme integrates chemical, genetic, biological, ecological, mathematical and agronomic approaches to deliver more targeted control strategies.
“We are delighted to have received ISCF investment for the delivery of research that offer solutions for one of agriculture’s most testing challenges,” says Achim Dobermann, Rothamsted’s director and chief executive. “Globally, 30% of crop yield is lost to pests, pathogens and weeds. Improving the efficiency and sustainability of crop protection is one of the most accessible ways to intensify agriculture sustainably.”
Paul Neve, leader of the SCP programme at Rothamsted, commented: “Through this investment, we aim to deliver a new vision for managing crop health. Using the latest technologies, our goal is to limit the incidence, distribution, dispersal, evolutions and impact of crop biotic threats. We also aim to maximise the efficacy and sustainability of control interventions”
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which strategically funds Rothamsted, is responsible for distributing the total £16.6 million investment from the ISCF to develop new agricultural technologies and industrial bioprocesses to underpin a more successful bioeconomy.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “This significant investment will support pioneering bioscience research and development projects that will reduce our reliance on carbon, boost the productivity of our nation’s crops and develop new world-leading agricultural technologies.”
The funded projects will de-risk innovative ideas arising from academia and industry for the development of transformative new technologies, processes and practices to advance the production of food, chemicals, materials and energy.
• Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst: Seeding and Feasibility – the project supports the UK being a world-leader in industrial biotechnology by enhancing access to innovative products and processes, reducing reliance on ‘fossil’ carbon and helping to meet climate change targets.
• Agri-Food Technology Catalyst: Seeding and Feasibility – the project will contribute to increasing productivity, sustainability and resilience of the UKs Agri-Food sector whilst maintaining food security and export opportunities post-Brexit.
• Smart Crop Protection: Increasing Supply-Chain Resilience – the project will improve crop productivity by using the latest technology to detect, monitor, predict and control pests and diseases of crops.
Melanie Welham, BBSRC chief executive said: “Bioscience continues to push the frontiers of knowledge and understanding, providing ample opportunities to address the challenges we face in food security and energy and also to transform the UKs future bioeconomy.”
The ISCF builds on the UK’s world-class research and innovation base and seeks to deliver innovative solutions to address the needs of business, transforming existing industries and creating new ones. It seeks to accelerate commercial exploitation of the most exciting technologies the UK has to offer the world to ensure that scientific investment drives productivity and truly delivers economic impact, jobs and growth right across the country.
The ISCF is delivered by Innovate UK and Research Councils UK, and eventually UK Research and Innovation, the single voice for the UK’s research and innovation landscape.