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£600,000 Research Programme to Stop Wipe Out of Key Kenyan Crops

Plants affected by Black Rot 

Researchers at the University of Warwick’s plant science department, Warwick HRI, have been given just over £600,000 to help protect two key Kenyan food crops - Kale and cabbage that frequently have complete harvests wiped out by Black Rot.

Kale and cabbage are two of the most important vegetables for the local economy in Kenya and other East African countries, but often, entire harvests are wiped out by Black Rot - a seed-borne disease which penetrates the leaves and causes spreading yellow lesions. Affected leaves drop prematurely and the plants can die.

A research team from the University of Warwick and the Central Science Laboratory in the UK and CABI in Kenya, led by Dr Paul Hand from the University of Warwick, are joining forces to find a sustainable solution to the black-rot problem. They are looking to discover the genes necessary to breed kale, cabbages and other brassicas with resistance to Black Rot. Currently little is known about this type of resistance.

The research grant from BBSRC is part of a £7 million pound launched today to tackle some of the most damaging and widespread pests, diseases and harsh environmental conditions which can devastate crop yields across the developing world. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID) are unveiling 12 new projects as part of their flagship initiative - Sustainable Agriculture Research for International Development (SARID)

Commenting on the new research, Gareth Thomas, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development and Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, said: "Investing in science and research is essential to provide poor farmers with the seeds, knowledge and tools they need to make a better life for themselves. This research, bringing together UK, African and Asian scientists, has the potential to revolutionise farming in the developing world and reduce global poverty. The UK is delighted to support this initiative."

Welcoming the new research, Ian Pearson, Minister for Science and Innovation, said: "This is a true demonstration of how scientific research can help find solutions to the major challenges facing the world and improve the quality of life for millions in developing countries."

BBSRC Interim Chief Executive, Steve Visscher, said: "Bioscience research can make a vital contribution to improving sustainable agriculture across the globe. These projects will build on the world-leading research on fundamental plant science and plant disease in the UK and apply this to crops of importance in the developing world, increasing yields and helping to alleviate the suffering of millions living in poverty."

For further information please contact:

Dr Paul Hand, Warwick HRI,
University of Warwick
024 76575168

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager,
Communications Office, University of Warwick,
Tel: 024 76 523708
or 07767 655860 email:

PR11 PJD 21st February 2008