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Lancaster University and China link to help put food on the table

Story supplied by LU Press Office

Professor Bill Davies with members of the WaterSci project team Professor Bill Davies with members of the WaterSci project team

Lancaster researchers are teaming up with their Chinese counterparts to help meet the growing challenge of feeding the world.

The University has received a £1.33m Research Council UK Science Bridge award to improve UK innovation links with China to addresses perhaps the greatest challenge facing humankind.

Feeding a world population approaching seven billion against a background of growing concern over our planet's capacity to adapt to a changing climate is a tall order. Climate change predictions show that rising global surface temperatures coupled with significant changes in rain fall intensity are likely to lead to serious droughts and more frequent flooding. This in turn will threaten food production and safe water supplies.

Professor Bill Davies of Lancaster University's Lancaster Environment Centre is leading the three year research programme - Water availability and quality: natural environments, domestic use and food production (WaterSci) - which will tackle some of these problems.

He said: "A secure water supply is vital not only for drinking water but also for agriculture, to ensure a reliable, stable source of food. Now, possibly more than at any time in the past, is there a need for innovation to ensure we can successfully meet this global challenge.

"We have a strong track record of collaborative work with researchers in China - one of the countries which has been most affected by water shortage in agriculture and the WaterSci team brings to together world-leading scientists in the field of sustainable water management.

"We need innovation in many areas to enable us to use water more efficiently in agriculture from more intelligent irrigation systems to better use of waste water. The technology is emerging - we need to capitalise on that progress."

Lancaster's Partners in China include leading scientists at: China Agricultural University, Nanjing University, North West Agricultural and Forestry University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Dr Mark Bacon, Director of Enterprise and Business Partnerships at the Lancaster Environment Centre, said: "Lancaster's leadership of the China-Bridge project demonstrates how we can bring together the excellence of our science with our capacity to deliver new innovations into UK and global business and in doing so contribute to Lancaster's standing as a truly international University."

One of the partners in the project, Professor Kang Shaozhong, Director of Centre for Agricultural Water Research in China at China Agricultural University said: "Water shortage is an important limiting factor in crop production especially in the arid areas of Northwest China. Efficient water use is a great issue to ensure the food security of 1.3 billion Chinese people. We believe that a Sino-UK partnership in Water Science can add value by exploiting complementary strengths in our research communities. The partners all have significant strengths to bring to the collaboration which should impact significantly in both our countries."

The award is part of a £12 million RCUK funding package for collaborations between British universities and institutions in China, India and the US.

Lancaster University will also build a post graduate teaching and research training programme around the WaterSci project.

Thu 12 February 2009

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