27 November 2014 15:01

Lancaster University is working with researchers across the UK and India to provide improved crops for the future.

The University is working on one of seven new research projects launched today to help provide new or improved crops for the future. The projects involve collaborations between researchers in the UK and India and aims to provide crops suitable for a changing climate and to produce more food with fewer inputs.

The research has been made possible thanks to £5 million funding from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and matched resources from India's Department of Biotechnology (DBT). 

These projects are an excellent example of the potential benefits of agricultural technologies. Combining the UK’s expertise in plant science, bioinformatics and genomics with research strengths in India will help to provide new crops for farmers worldwide. 

Professor Bill Davies of Lancaster University, one of the world leaders in ‘more crop per drop’ technology, is working with colleagues Dr Anthony Hall, at the University of Liverpool and Dr. Pradeep Sharma, Crop Improvement (Plant Biotechnology), Directorate of Wheat Research (ICAR), Karnal to understand drought tolerance in wheat.  Professor Martin Parry at Rothamsted Research, an Honorary Professor at Lancaster’s Environment Centre, is also part of the Liverpool-led team. 

Professor Davies said: “Water shortage is a major problem for world agriculture and can only get worse in many regions of the world, as the climate changes. India, which is soon to be the most populous nation in the world, has particular challenges producing enough food under what can often be significant water shortage. Lancaster has expertise in producing more crop per drop via both modified crop management and genetics. Our partners offer complementary expertise and this is a wonderful opportunity for us to make a difference to agriculture across the globe.”

Professor Jackie Hunter, Chief Executive, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: “These projects combine the strengths of researchers in India and the UK to help provide solutions to increasing food demands. Advances in sequencing, genomic and bioinformatic tools enable us to improve crops more rapidly than ever before to facilitate the step-change in agricultural productivity that will be required to feed the world sustainably.”

The projects include: enhancing the nutritional value of a flood and drought tolerant, but toxic pea into a safe crop; improving wheat to make it more tolerant to drought; identifying genes that could make crops resistant to pests and diseases to reduce the need for chemical sprays; producing drought-tolerant tomatoes; and improving seed quality in oilseed rape.

Professor K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Indian Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, said: “BBSRC and DBT have long worked together in areas of mutual strategic interest. This time the cooperation between the UK and Indian researchers aims to improve crop production addressing problems of disease and drought in crops; using pooled knowledge to improve both quality and quantity of the of food produce” 


Research Councils UK India played a vital role in facilitating this co-funded programme between BBSRC and DBT, and to continue bringing together the best researchers in the UK and India.