New awards target breakthrough technologies to enhance food security
A recent collaboration between the BBSRC, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is helping researchers potentially advance technology that brings more security to crop agriculture of the future. Dr Stephen Jackson and Dr Jose Gutierrez-Marcos are amongst those receiving funding.
Phenom UK 2019
On Monday 22 July, researchers from the University of Sheffield, Rothamsted Research and the University of Nottingham attended a networking event at the University of Warwick Wellesbourne campus. The event was organised by Dr Beatriz Lagunas and sponsored by Phenom UK (‘Technology Touching Life programme funded jointly by BBSRC/EPSRC/MRC). In the morning, visitors enjoyed a guided tour around the field research facility including the pathogen quarantine fields, insect pest trial area, the low nutrient field, and the main rotation fields for irrigated trials. In the afternoon, a round table discussion focused on the challenges of field-based phenotyping.
The breadth of expertise amongst participants allowed discussion of ideas for relating aerial spectral imaging of the crop canopy with below-ground differences in soil nutrient/root/microbe interactions. The consensus was that pilot data is needed in a specific crop from small-scale controlled experiments to identify disease signature wavelengths and then move to field phenotyping based, for example using drone-based imaging in collaboration with both the University of Sheffield and Rothamsted Research. The PhenomUK website will provide a useful forum for further discussions. All Warwick people interested in following up the discussions are encouraged to do it through the Plant & Crop Science Theme and to register at the Phenom UK website.
Phenom UK networking visit attendants standing in a field of haricot beans (from left to right):
Craig Sturrock (U. of Nottingham), Patrick Schäfer (U. of Warwick), Rob Lillywhite (U. of Warwick), Stephen A. Rolfe (U. of Sheffield), Graham Teakle (U. of Warwick), Gabriel Castrillo (U. of Nottingham), John Clarkson (U. of Warwick), Beatriz Lagunas (U. of Warwick), Guilhem Reyt (U. of Nottingham), Sally Mann (U. of Warwick), Malcolm Hawkesford (Rothamsted Research), Alexander McCormack (U. of Warwick), Tim Mauchline (Rothamsted Research), Rosemary Collier (U. of Warwick), Joost H.M. Stassen (U. of Sheffield), Rory Hayden (U. of Nottingham) and Eric Holub (U. of Warwick).
Work is underway on an innovative new greenhouse research facility at the University of Warwick’s Wellesbourne Campus. The project is a partnership between Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), one of the four UK Agritech Centres funded by Innovate UK, the innovator and developer, RIPE Building Services, and the University of Warwick, which will coordinate research through its School of Life Sciences.
It is the first major construction at Wellesbourne Campus since Warwick acquired the site in 2004. The new greenhouse will also be built in the year the site celebrates 70 years as a national centre of excellence for crop research.
The new structure, named the Natural Light Growing (NLG) Centre, is being built by RIPE using patented materials and construction technology and will allow the full spectrum of natural light through into the protective growing environment. This is expected to increase crop yield and speed of growth as well as improve qualities like taste, plant health and vigour. The beneficial effects of the full spectrum growing conditions on crop plants are not yet fully understood and the greenhouse will act as a demonstration facility and experimental hub to study several crop characteristics.
Professor Richard Napier, Director of Research at the University’s School of Life Sciences, said: “We are delighted that Wellesbourne Campus has been chosen as the location for such an innovative facility.
“Our academic crop researchers are looking forward to trialling this next generation growing environment to extend our research into crop improvement, the results of which will benefit farmers and growers and ultimately consumers.”
The new structure will be completed this month and officially opened in summer 2019.
Arctic's Global Seed Vault to receive 101 samples from Warwick's Vegetable Genebank
101 seed samples from 18 different types of crop species including onions, carrots and cauliflower are to be deposited at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Arctic Norway on the 31 October 2018, from the UK Vegetable Genebank (UKVGB) at the University of Warwick.
On Monday 18 December, Dr Guy Barker spoke on BBC Midlands Today on how Warwick Crop Centre are improving sprouts through traditional plant breeding. Watch www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09jg8fl/midlands-today-evening-news-18122017 (from 23 minutes)
Dr Barker also spoke with Phil Upton on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, describing how researchers are utilising genetic diversity from the UK Vegetable Genebank to enhance the appearance, quality and resistance of sprouts. Listen at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05nlj64 (1:41-1:45)
SLS Researchers on Television
Two of our researchers recently featured on television programmes showcasing their expertise:
On 12 June, Virologist Professor Andrew Easton appeared on Channel 4’s ‘How to Stay Well’ programme, ‘Sneezes, Mobiles & Lyme Disease’, investigating how far a sneeze travels.
On 19 June, Experiment Manager Andy Jukes, from Warwick Crop Centre, was on BBC One’s ‘Supermarket Secrets’ discussing the testing of chilli heat with Greg Wallace.
Countering the Courgette Crisis
It seems we are facing a Courgette Crisis. Although it’s really just a bit of a run on green vegetables, it does remind us that actually, courgettes – and now iceberg lettuce – shouldn’t be ‘February vegetables’. This raises some important issues about what we as consumers have learned to expect when it comes to food.
Researchers at Warwick Crop Centre are looking at ways of improving existing UK vegetable and fruit crops as well as looking for completely new ones.
BRAVO: making Brassica crops more resilient
Protecting the UK’s most valuable crops by making them more resilient is at the heart of a new five-year project, in which the School of Life Sciences will play a key role.
The Brassica, Rapeseed and Vegetable Optimisation (BRAVO) project, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), aims to combat losses of Oilseed rape and Brassica vegetable crops by unravelling the processes that control key aspects of plant development.
Read Press Release
Warwick Crop Centre Joins Historic Tractor Parade
Staff and students from Warwick Crop Centre took part in the ‘70 tractors for 70 years’ Massey Ferguson procession organised by Coventry Transport Museum on Saturday 30 July.
The School of Life Sciences welcomes Professor Murray Grant, who recently took up the position of Elizabeth Creak Chair in Food Security and, thanks to a generous donation from the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust, researchers teach children about soil at the Kenilworth Show.
Summer research placements in Entomology and Pathology
The School of Life Sciences has a number of summer research placements available in Entomology and Plant Pathology during the summer vacation of 2016. The placements are funded by the BBSRC through its Strategic Training Awards for Research Skills (STARS) scheme and provide training in strategically important and vunerable skills for bioscientists.
The 10-week placements are for second year undergraduate students enabling them to join a research group in Life Sciences and undertake a small research project related to the group's activities.
Each student will receive a bursary of £2000 (£200 per week).
For further details and how to apply see the Summer research placements flyer (pdf).
The closing date for applications is 18 April.
Plant science collaboration with Brazil to improve vegetable crops
Dr John Walsh, Associate Professor in the School of Life Sciences, and his collaborators have been awarded £15,000 for a research project on the characterisation of Potyviruses infecting vegetable crops in Brazil. The project was funded through the FAPESP SPRINT scheme (São Paulo Researchers in International Collaboration), which aims to encourage and promote the advancement of scientific research through partnerships between researchers in São Paulo State and overseas. The University of Warwick is one of only five UK institutions that has partnered with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) to support this scheme.
Dr Walsh’s project will be carried out in collaboration with Prof Elliot Kitajima from the University of São Paulo’s Department of Plant Pathology and Nematology in Piracicaba and Dr Marcelo Eiras from the Instituto Biologico in São Paulo. Initial activities to develop this partnership were supported by the University of Warwick’s Brazil Partnership Fund in 2014. The Brazilian operation of the commercial seed company Sakata are also involved in the research programme.
Potyviruses cause significant losses in agricultural, pastoral, horticultural and ornamental crops. This project focusses on Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV), which causes diseases in the economically important brassica family of crops including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnip and oilseed rape. Through determining the diversity of TuMV and investigating broad-spectrum resistance to the virus the team is expecting to identify naturally occurring resistance genes which can then be introduced into commercial crop lines. The collaboration brings together complementary expertise in plant science research which will lead to significant synergies and knowledge exchange, but also has the potential to generate substantial societal and economic benefits through collaboration with industry and the resulting exploitation of intellectual property.
HDC funded PhD student discusses issues facing the daffodil industry with Midlands Today
James Syrett, an HDC funded PhD student from the Warwick Crop Centre discusses issues facing the daffodil Industry with BBC Midlands Today (24th March) and BBC Radio 4, Farming Today (25th March). The price of a bunch of daffodils has remained fixed for a number of years despite significantly rising production costs.
His research project is looking at identifying technologies and growing practices to maintain the industry’s profitability.
Getting agricultural information to smallholder farmers can help improve food security
BBSRC-funded PhD student Andrew Tock, from Warwick Crop Centre, explores 'plant clinics' in Uganda where farmers can receive objective and impartial advice on how to best treat their crops to protect them from pests. The diary is based on a three-month project in Uganda, and part of the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP), a BBSRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership. Find out more in Andy's blog.
Video courtesy of BBSRC
Legacy of Warwickshires first Woman High Sheriff helps University of Warwick tackle global food security
A trust set up by Elizabeth Creak, a leading Warwickshire farmer who was the first woman to be High Sheriff of Warwickshire, has announced that it has agreed to fund a Chair in Food Security at the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences. The announcement has just been made by The Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust.
Warwick Crop Centre at the University of Warwick has won a five year contract from Defra to continue to host the UK Vegetable Genebank at the University’s Wellesbourne campus.
The Genebank is an internationally significant collection of almost 14,000 seed samples from different vegetable crops including carrot onion, lettuce cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli and closely related wild species.
The collection represents the genetic diversity in the genepool of each crop, and is a vital resource for researchers and plant breeders across the world.
'Vegetables are an important component of a healthy diet and the seed resources within the Genebank will support the development of new and improved varieties in the future', said Dr Charlotte Allender who leads the Vegetable Genebank project.
BBC's David Gregory visited the Warwick Crop Centre to film activities in the GRU (Genetic Resources Unit). The film is now available on You Tube at http://youtu.be/b9AmQ8wZvKg
Exploring the final frontiers of knowledge...
Rachel Warmington, a second year PhD student at Warwick Crop Centre was featured in The Independent on Wednesday 20th February. The article by Jessica Moore entitled ‘Explore the final frontiers of knowledge’ shows how postgraduates undertaking niche research projects can affect real change:
‘My research could have a significant impact’, acknowledges Rachel Warmington, 34. Her PhD at the University of Warwick explores soil treatments to control a major crop disease that attacks around 400 different plant species – including potatoes, carrots, beans and rape. ‘Crop diseases are becoming increasingly resistant to chemicals, so we need new methods and techniques, otherwise we’re not going to have any food left to eat.’
Rachel, who is funded by the Horticultural Development Company (HDC), was recently awarded the Marsh Horticultural Science Award for 2013. The Award, run in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society, recognizes the work of and encourages new postgraduate scientists to develop careers in horticultural science.
Click on image to read full article.
Crop Centre engages with local school
Ann Price from Warwick Crop Centre, part of the School of Life Sciences, went to Hampton Lucy School on Tuesday 7th May to give a talk to years 5 and 6 about her work in the Genetic Resources Unit. The Warwickshire primary school children learned about vegetable seeds, pollination and growing plants. The children really enjoyed Ann’s talk, and it fitted in well with their horticulture lessons and their vegetable garden work.
The School of Life Sciences is committed to working with schools and the community. Coordinated by our Educational Strategy and Communications Officer, staff and students from the School work with schools and the community to provide experience of the Life Sciences.
To find out more about what we can offer your school or community group contact firstname.lastname@example.org