Harpenden, United Kingdom
Harpenden, United Kingdom

Rothamsted Research, previously known as the Rothamsted Experimental Station and then the Institute of Arable Crops Research, is one of the oldest agricultural research institutions in the world, having been founded in 1843. It is located at Harpenden in the English county of Hertfordshire.One of the station's best known and longest running experiments is the Park Grass Experiment, a biological study that started in 1856 and has been continuously monitored ever since. Wikipedia.


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Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: ERC-COG | Phase: ERC-CoG-2014 | Award Amount: 1.98M | Year: 2016

Insect resistance to synthetic insecticides and the anti-herbivore defence chemicals produced by many plants is an ongoing challenge to sustainable pest management while also an exceptional model system to study adaptive evolution. The cytochrome P450s are a superfamily of enzymes that are ubiquitous in nature, and one of the most important enzyme families used by insects to defend themselves against natural and synthetic xenobiotics. Insects have been shown to evolve resistance through quantitative changes in P450 expression or via qualitative changes in P450s that alter metabolic activity. Despite their importance in conferring resistance the variety of regulatory changes that modulate P450 expression in resistant insects and their relative frequency/impact is not fully understood. Furthermore, although qualitative changes in insect P450s associated with resistance are relatively rare they represent a unique opportunity to characterise insecticide/toxin binding and identify the critical structure/function determinants of the P450/insect toxin interaction. In this project I will exploit cutting-edge advances in genomics, epigenetics and transgenics to study the insect P450 resistome in three main workpackages: WP-1: Will identify the molecular drivers of quantitative changes to insect P450s. WP-2: Will explore the role of qualitative changes in insect P450s in mediating resistance and identify structure/function determinants of insecticide metabolism. WP-3: Will exploit the knowledge gained in WP1/2 and from previous research to deliver a P450 toolkit consisting of in vitro and in vivo screening tools, with which to identify resistance breaking chemistry, and high-throughput diagnostics for use in resistance management. In summary this project will provide novel insights into this important enzyme family and provide tools that can be used to develop new products and strategies that slow, prevent, or overcome resistance and so ensure sustainable crop protection.


Fully drought-resistant crop plants would be beneficial, but selection breeding has not produced them. Genetic modification of species by introduction of very many genes is claimed, predominantly, to have given drought resistance. This review analyses the physiological responses of genetically modified (GM) plants to water deficits, the mechanisms, and the consequences. The GM literature neglects physiology and is unspecific in definitions, which are considered here, together with methods of assessment and the type of drought resistance resulting. Experiments in soil with cessation of watering demonstrate drought resistance in GM plants as later stress development than in wild-type (WT) plants. This is caused by slower total water loss from the GM plants which have (or may have - morphology is often poorly defined) smaller total leaf area (LA) and/or decreased stomatal conductance (gs), associated with thicker laminae (denser mesophyll and smaller cells). Non-linear soil water characteristics result in extreme stress symptoms in WT before GM plants. Then, WT and GM plants are rewatered: faster and better recovery of GM plants is taken to show their greater drought resistance. Mechanisms targeted in genetic modification are then, incorrectly, considered responsible for the drought resistance. However, this is not valid as the initial conditions in WT and GM plants are not comparable. GM plants exhibit a form of 'drought resistance' for which the term 'delayed stress onset' is introduced. Claims that specific alterations to metabolism give drought resistance [for which the term 'constitutive metabolic dehydration tolerance' (CMDT) is suggested] are not critically demonstrated, and experimental tests are suggested. Small LA and gs may not decrease productivity in well-watered plants under laboratory conditions but may in the field. Optimization of GM traits to environment has not been analysed critically and is required in field trials, for example of recently released oilseed rape and maize which show 'drought resistance', probably due to delayed stress onset. Current evidence is that GM plants may not be better able to cope with drought than selection-bred cultivars. © 2012 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press [on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology]. All rights reserved.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 1.35M | Year: 2016

Wheat is the most important staple crop grown in the UK, and one of the two major crops grown in India. Nitrogen fertiliser is a key determinant of yield and the major cost of wheat production in both countries and excessive application can result in pollution of groundwater and increased production of greenhouse gases. Breeders and farmers in the UK and India have worked hard to improve the efficiency of use of applied nitrogen, by improving the uptake and utilization efficiency within the crop through genetic improvement, together with the precision of fertilizer application in the field. However, further improvements are required to face the challenges of increasing crop production for an expanding global population with increasing uncertainty of climate. Both yield and quality attributes are dependent upon nitrogen inputs and need to be incorporated into economic and sustainable solutions. We will therefore bring together the major UK and Indian wheat researchers with programmes on wheat improvement to determine the genetic control of nitrogen use efficiency in wheat. These comprise scientists from five Universities and Institutes in the UK and from six in New Delhi, Haryana and the Punjab, which is the major wheat-producing area of India. The studies will focus on comparisons of wheat lines and populations which differ in their nitrogen use efficiency. These lines will be grown in field experiments in both countries and studied in detail using a range of biochemical and molecular genetic approaches. This will lead to the identification of genes and molecular markers that can be exploited by wheat breeders globally, and to new strategies for improving the precision of nitrogen application which will delivered to farmers via well-established mechanisms in both countries. Furthermore, since similar mechanisms are expected to determine nitrogen use efficiency in other plant species the results should be of wider applicability to other crops and countries. In addition to supporting a closely integrated research programme in the UK and India, the Centre will also provide a legacy of shared facilities, technologies, genetic material and datasets that will facilitate longer term bilateral collaborations, and provide training in crop genetics and genomics and exchanges for early career scientists and students in both countries.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 694.77K | Year: 2016

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 467.52K | Year: 2017

Fish-farming (aquaculture) plays a key role in producing animal protein is produced for human consumption. Aquaculture plays a vital role in feeding the world, and as the number of mouths to feed increases, its role in providing nutritious food continues to grow. Fish farming is more efficient than any terrestrial animal production system, but the Achilles heel of aquaculture is the requirement for omega-3 fish oils in the feeds of marine and salmonid species - this is because fish lack the capacity to make these fatty acids, and if they are not provided in their diet, the resulting product is devoid of these health-beneficial fats. Pressure on the oceanic stocks which are used to produce these fish oils has resulted in increased demand for an alternative source of fish oils for use in aquaculture. Our project is to evaluate, using aquaculture industry parameters, the feasibility of using our GM camelina oil (and meal) as a replacement in the commercial production of farmed salmon.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 493.52K | Year: 2016

Rice is a staple food for more than half of the worlds population. However, rice is largely consumed as polished grain (white rice) and its consumption, as part of the adoption of a Western diet and increasingly sedentary life style, is associated with increased risk of a range of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardio-vascular disease and forms of cancer. Hence it is important to consider the impact of rice on nutrition and health as well as traditional quality attributes. Consequently, the two most important targets for quality improvement of polished white rice are to reduce the rate of digestion in the human gastrointestinal tract (through starch structure manipulation and increasing the percentage of resistant starch) and increase the content of dietary fibre while retaining high yield and good cooking and sensory properties. The research project will carry out detailed analyses of grain composition of a wide range of rice lines to identify lines with increased health benefits combined with good consumer acceptability. Cutting-edge genetics and bioinformatics will then be used to identify molecular markers that can be used to select for quality traits by breeders. The improved lines and markers will then be delivered to national and international rice breeding programmes to allow them to develop new commercial varieties.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 479.40K | Year: 2016

Bacterial blight and rice blast are two key pathogens reducing rice productivity worldwide. Varietal resistance is an effective, reliable and environmentally friendly way of protecting rice against these pathogens. The development and use of modern molecular breeding techniques has shortened the generation of elite rice lines for varietal release from 8-10 years to 2-3 years. This means that real-time deployment of resistant varieties with various combinations of resistance genes can be customized through gene rotation or mixture in a single genetic background. New varieties resulting from current breeding projects will be released in two to three years. This makes a range of varieties each with a unique combination of resistance genes available to growers. A key question, then, is: Where should these varieties be deployed? Each variety should be deployed where the matching virulence is not present, or is at an extremely low frequency, in the pathogen population. This ensures that the resistant variety remains effective for the maximum possible time. We thus need a method to ascertain the absence, or possible presence in extremely small frequency, of pathogen virulence in the field. We therefore aim to develop and apply a combined modelling and field monitoring approach to determine areas where a novel resistance gene can safely be deployed because virulence is at a sufficiently low frequency in the pathogen population. The method: -1- Will quantify the number of infections in observational plots of a susceptible variety. A similar plot with the novel resistant variety will show no infections (ideally). Using a statistical method we will then be able to estimate the maximum expected frequency of virulence in a field pathogen population. If this frequency is small enough (e.g. 10-10) we can decide that the new resistant variety be released. -2- Will be scaled-up from the field level to a regional level. This will enable us to make decisions about variety release at larger spatial scales. The model will be parameterised from field monitoring of an aggressive bacterial blast strain currently expanding in the north of Thailand. -3- Will be made available, with the necessary training, for future use to the rice research community. -4- Will start to be used alongside its development to help solve the emerging problem posed by the new expanding aggressive bacterial blast strain that threatens northern Thailands rice production. The outputs of the project will be a set of methods to establish where in the Philippines and Thailand novel resistant varieties can be released to maximise the durability of varietal resistance. This will be of clear benefit to growers as they will suffer less from virulent strains breaking the novel resistance. This in turn will improve the income of poor growers. The project will also train staff in statistical methods, epidemiological modelling and the use of the methods developed in the project. The project will also help breeders to establish breeding targets by providing them with information on the presence of pathogen virulence in the field.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 559.86K | Year: 2016

This project will investigate the impacts of different vegetation in buffer strips on runoff and pollution loss from agricultural land. Runoff from agricultural land and the pollution it carries continue to cause problems for flooding and water quality. The impacts of flooding arising from runoff from farmed land have been well documented in recent times, including during the wet winter of 2013 - e.g. on the Somerset Levels. Many of our rivers experience water quality problems which have implications for freshwater biology and water treatment costs. Better controls are therefore required in the context of the need for sustainable intensification of our farming. Buffer strips continue to feature in current revisions to agri-environment policy for helping deliver sustainable farming. These revisions affect subsidies for farmers in the form of greening options and funding as part of the new Countryside Stewardship scheme (which commences in January 2016). Despite the continued inclusion of buffers as a catch-all on-farm control option to combat diffuse runoff problems contributing to flooding and, pollution contributing to failure of water quality targets, evidence on the costs and effectiveness of different vegetation types is limited. This project will therefore use an established experimental facility to test deep-rooting grass, deciduous woodland and willow bioenergy crop covers in buffers for reducing runoff and losses of nutrients, sediment and pesticides. The buffers will be tested for reducing runoff and water pollution from grass and maize during a five year study. To expand beyond the experimental site, the new data on the costs and effectiveness of the different vegetation covers will be scaled up to examine potential economic benefits across England and Wales. A clear understanding of costs and benefits is important for industry to engage with research outputs and to encourage on-the-ground delivery of tested measures for farmers. Engagement with industry will be enhanced through demonstration of the plots to stakeholder groups. The project team brings a strong track record of buffer research and well-developed links to stakeholder networks including the grass, woodland and willow industries and those associated with on-going research platforms such as the Defra Demonstration Test Catchment (DTC) and Sustainable Intensification Platform (SIP) programmes, as well as the BBSRC funded North Wyke Farm Platform national capability.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 252.99K | Year: 2017

Soil Quality and Soil Health are general terms for indicators that are associated with Soil Security. None of these terms within quotation marks is easy to define, however. Neither are they easy to quantify rigorously in a way that avoids dispute. Nonetheless all three terms have traction with policy makers and with land managers and regulators. Indicators provide benchmarks for ranking different places or practices and deciding where to deploy effort to bring about change as effectively and economically as possible and they provide a means to assess afterwards whether or not and to what extent this change has actually been brought about. As a result, indicators of this kind are attractive to stakeholders. Indicators often rely on expert opinion for their derivation, but experts differ. Even apparently objective biophysical measurements are subject to error and worse, the soil itself varies from place to place and even time to time. It is not clear how to eliminate bias or how to weight the different kinds of information - opinion and measurement. There is therefore scope for developing a rigorous, scientific approach to SQH that incorporates expert-derived opinion alongside physically-based measurements in our understanding of Soil Quality and Health (SQH) in a scientific manner. Bayesian Belief Networks are graph-based, directional networks that can incorporate probability distributions of these various kinds of data. Essentially the directedness leads from multiple pieces of data to a conclusion - in our case a rating of SQH. The network is self-learning in that any additional soils and data for which quality assessments are available will re-inforce the pathways that decide the quality rating. In use, SQH ratings for additional soils that contain even partial data can still be obtained if the net defaults to mean values where data is missing. To accommodate the various functions and scales needed to operationalise SQH, will require a set of Bayesian Belief Networks that considers the interactions of soil properties with SQH but also the impact of environmental change and land use and management on soil quality. There a numerous advantages to using BBNs: they can consider and integrate biological, economic and sociological factors and have effectively been use to determine the consequence of land-management decisions in land use decision behaviour. Bayesian modelling methods are a rigorous framework in which a complete characterization of the coupling and variability of soil quality is based on physical laws, empirical relationships but can easily incorporate expert knowledge formally and other kinds of soft data.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 2.44M | Year: 2016

UK-China Virtual Joint Centre for Improved Nitrogen Agronomy (CINAG) Despite making great progress, China still needs to increase agricultural production to feed its growing population with its increasing expectations while overcoming the considerable environmental problems that industrial and agricultural development has brought with it such as air and water pollution and soil acidification. Currently the three main cereal crops (wheat, maize and rice) use only 33% of the nitrogen fertiliser applied, and less than 40% of the nutrients in recyclable organic wastes such as livestock manure are returned to agriculture. China Agricultural University (CAU), the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have developed innovative and successful ways of working with farmers to improve the situation, increasing yields of winter wheat and summer maize by 35% and reducing nitrogen fertiliser use by 20%. However, the Chinese Government has set the goal of increasing yields with zero increases in chemical inputs by the year 2020. Rothamsted Research and its partners in this proposal, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and Bangor University (BU), have worked with CAU, CAAS and CAS for over 10 years, producing research into agriculture and the environment that has been published in the very best journals such as Nature and Science but also used by Chinese farmers through such mechanisms as a Chinese fertiliser recommendations system and farmer field schools. We propose to increase our UK-China collaborative research through a Virtual Joint Centre in Nitrogen Agronomy that would: 1. Carry out joint research projects, in particular using novel Farm Platforms that will allow us to develop economically and environmentally sustainable farm systems through research at the farm level. 2. Exchange staff and students for laboratory and field work, with a strong focus on UK-to-China movements and for periods of 1-3 months, e.g. summer student visits from the UK to China to work on the new CAU Cropping Farm Platform. 3. Hold joint conferences and meetings, with public participation. 4. Share data management, publications and practical work with farmers in China and the UK. We will develop novel metagenomic-based indicators of N use efficiency and soil quality, use these indicators, and other emerging knowledge, to test and develop farm systems that permit the sustainable intensification of (especially Chinese) agriculture, and take these developments to Chinese farmers. We will achieve this through four Work Packages: improved fundamental understanding of N cycling; harnessing novel N technologies; improved agronomic practices; predictive capacity and knowledge exchange The Centre will build on previous collaborations such as China Partnering Awards and joint projects between the partners such as Sino-United Kingdom Low Carbon Agriculture project (Grant FCO-C02/62.1001), 2008-2011, funded jointly by the UK FCO and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and an existing VJC with CAAS: The Centre for the Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture (CSIA) and closely link to similar international initiatives such as EU N Expert Panel, utilising the Panels approaches for expressing NUE at (1) the farm level and (2) through the food chain in order to compare systems and regions and as a stimulus to use N more efficiently. The Centre will translate its research into practice in China through the existing and very Science and Technology Backyard (STB) programme, managed by our partners at CAU, CAAS and the Hebei Institute of Agricultural Sciences, and linked to Chinese local government extension agencies, fertiliser companies and farmers.

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