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Food Security

Food Security is one of BBSRC’s key strategic research priorities and work funded in this area contributes towards the UK’s multi-agency Global Food Security programme [].

MIBTP has 22 studentships each year earmarked for research projects in Food Security. Food Security is defined broadly as bioscience addressing the challenge to produce and supply enough safe and nutritious food in a sustainable way for a growing global population in the context of global climate change, other environmental changes and declining resources. MIBTP has particular research expertise in the priority areas of Plant and Crop Science, Animal Health, Soil Science, Agri-systems, and Microbiology.

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Plant and Crop Science – From Systems Biology to Agronomy:  

MIBTP is a global leader in developing and applying ‘systems’ approaches to elucidate plant responses to the environment. For example, bringing together leading plant biologists, theoreticians and bioinformaticians to understand how plants react to environmental challenges such as drought and pathogen attack.

Modelling the plant circadian clock is identifying key cofactors and elucidating the impact of the clock on plant environmental responses.

Agriculturally-important traits: MIBTP scientists are also uniquely placed to combine genetic, genomic and systems approaches using model and crop species to find genes underlying agriculturally-important traits. A unique asset is the Warwick Crop Centre, but all partners have experts and facilities using Brassica, lettuce, beans, maize and wheat.

Examples of project areas include:

  • Dormancy, germination and seedling vigour
  • Fruit development
  • Nitrogen and water use efficiency
  • Flowering time and juvenility
  • Pest and disease resistance
  • Systems analyses of lateral root development and nodulation in Medicago truncatula
  • Proteomics of chloroplast generation
  • CO2 losses during photosynthesis as part of an international BBSRC/NHF project

Genomic improvement: Genomic technologies underpin other practical developments in plant breeding programmes. Example project areas include:

  • High throughput sequencing and bioinformatics with mapping populations in Brassica, bean and lettuce allows rapid identification of markers for plant breeding.
  • Saving and exploiting genetic resources
  • Archeogenomics
  • Bioinformatics
  • Self-incompatibility in Brassicas
  • Gametogenesis
  • Meiosis in Brassicas and Barley


  • The Warwick Crop Centre also has a broad research programme in crop production, providing a national focus on Horticultural Crops.

Healthy and Safe Food: Post-harvest quality and traits relating to food quality and human well-being include:

  • post-harvest deterioration in Brassicas
  • phytonutrient content
  • At the Food Research group in Chemical Engineering, Birmingham there is a strong focus on processed foods who use -omic technologies to study how crop and feedstock properties affect processing, storability, palatability and nutritional value of foods during digestion and absorption.

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Farm Animal Health, Fisheries and Bees:

The epidemiology group at Warwick research exotic and endemic disease in livestock using theoretical modelling and on-farm studies of livestock. The group interacts with industry through funding from BBSRC, levy bodies, Defra, and the EU. Experts in quantitative mathematical and statistical modelling, their analyses contextualise livestock diseases as biological processes. The work has had huge impacts on infection and disease policy. Our scientists contribute to the Farm Animal Welfare Council and advise SEAC, JCVI, World Health Organisation and the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

This area of research also includes work within the Partnership in Fisheries and Bees as important agricultural pollinators.

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Microbiology research within Food Security spans animal disease, food-borne pathogens, the soil microbiome and its impact on plant disease and pollutant biodegradation. A number of research groups address these issues including:

  • Animal health and disease is being dissected at the microbiome level to understand how environment, nutrition, anatomy, physiology and stress, pathogenic processes, antimicrobial resistance and possible alternative treatments affect the balance of the gut flora
  • The development of Xbase as an AgriFood community resource supports training in the analysis of large quantities of genomic DNA sequence information
  • Fundamental and applied work on major causes of food-borne gastroenteritis such as Salmonella species and Campylobacter jejuni, particularly in poultry, and is leading to important changes in diagnosis, immunisation and husbandry practices
  • The virology of bee decline is examining the globally disastrous loss of honey bees associated with concerns about adequate pollination of crops
  • The diversity, distribution and function of microbial communities in the rhizosphere and soil are being studied to understand the impact of Plant-soil-microbe interactions on agriculture
  • Pollutant biodegradation work focusses on the bioavailability and biodegradation of pesticides in soil, and the biodegradation of daily use chemicals in river water and sediment

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In line with BBSRC’s training objectives, a research project in any of the groups listed above is likely to involve you in 'new ways of working' in the life sciences. The approach you will take is likely to involve many disciplines, use the latest technologies and you may be handling and manipulating large datasets. Your training will equip you with the skills to do this.