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Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: SFS-03a-2014 | Award Amount: 6.64M | Year: 2015

EMPHASIS is a participatory research project addressing native and alien pests threats (insect pests, pathogens, weeds) for a range of both natural ecosystems and farming systems (field crops, protected crops, forestry, orchards and amenity plants). The overall goal is to ensure a European food security system and the protection of biodiversity and of ecosystems services while developing integrated mechanisms of response measures (practical solutions) to predict, to prevent and to protect agriculture and forestry systems from native and alien pests threats. The specific objectives are the following: 1.Predict, Prioritize and Planning: pest management challenges and opportunities will be evaluated according to stakeholder-focused criteria and through pathway analysis; 2.Prevent: practical solutions for surveillance in different pathways to enhance preparedness will be provided to end-users, and monitoring tools following outbreaks and eradication will be developed; 3.Protect: practical solutions for managing native and alien pests in agriculture, horticulture and forestry will be developed, their technical and economic feasibility will be demonstrated and their market uptake will be enhanced. 4.Promote: a mutual learning process with end-users will be developed, and the solutions identified by the project will be promoted through training and dissemination. The project is in line with EU policy framework (Plant Health Dir. 2000/29/EC, EU Biodiversity strategy to 2020, Dir. 2009/128/EC on sustainable use of pesticides, Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe) and its future developments (Reg. on protective measures against pests of plants, Reg. on Invasive Alien Species). The project is not focused on a single management systems but the plant/pest ecosystems dealt with are treated with a multi-method approach to design true IPM methodology that will be developed for key systems with portability to other similar systems, thereby having a large impact.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 364.91K | Year: 2016

The UK soft fruit industry is a vital part of the UKs rural economy with annual sales of strawberries and raspberries of 111 Kt, worth c. £452M at retail sales value. The soft fruit sector has invested heavily in the development of new technology and higher-yielding varieties over the last 15 years and strawberry Class 1 yield/ha has risen from 8 t to 21 t (Defra). However, commercial yields of 38 t/ha are possible if crop agronomy is optimised. The yield gap is due in part to changeable environmental factors within the polytunnels, and the operational decisions made by growers in response to these variables. Over-irrigation and high fertiliser inputs during changeable weather can increase disease susceptibility, lower marketable yields and reduce organoleptic quality. Consequently, 33% of all harvested soft fruit is wasted each year, due to disorders such as rots, bruising and poor textural quality. A 30% reduction in soft fruit waste would stem UK imports and generate extra income for BGG growers of c. £5M p.a. Furthermore, inaccurate predictions of Class 1 yields by BGG growers resulted in lost revenue of £1M in just one two-week period in 2013 and improving the accuracy of yield forecasts could be expected to increase revenue by £3-4M p.a. To achieve this, the consortium will develop a Decision Support System (DSS) that will enable growers to improve operational decision making and reduce the impact of changeable weather on crop yield, quality and wastage. Growers, retailers and consumers will benefit from more accurate yield forecasts leading to better pricing, greater resource use efficiency leading to cost savings and improved environmental performance, lower waste during production leading to increased tonnage to sell, improved consistency of supply of high quality fresh fruit with an assured shelf-life leading to reduced wastage in store. The consortium has expertise in soft fruit agronomy and husbandry, crop physiology and nutrition, substrate sciencood quality science, engineering, modelling, IT and meteorology, and has a strong track record of delivering and exploiting publicly-funded R&D. The consortium will: 1) develop, test and deploy innovative technological, scientific, and meteorological solutions to reduce the impact of changeable weather on yield and quality; 2) improve consistency of the supply of high quality, phytonutritious fruit with an assured shelf-life; 3) reduce pre- and post-harvest waste leading to greater profitability and resource use efficiency; 4) improve accuracy of crop yield and timing forecasts to assure higher product pricing and improved grower margins; 5) develop and deploy a DSS to help growers improve the economic and environmental sustainability of their businesses; 6) increase resilience of UK soft fruit production to the impacts of weather and climate variability. Proof-of-concept of these novel technologies will be tested in scientific experiments using proprietary varieties of strawberry and raspberry at East Malling Research (EMR). The DSS will then be deployed and developed further on BGG grower sites to quantify the potential to deliver a greater efficiency in the use of resources, improved productivity from waste reduction, and improved grower margins from more accurate yield forecasts. We anticipate revenue gains of £15-17M p. a. arising from the adoption of the outputs. The route to market will be via commercial roll-out to BGGs 60 UK soft fruit growers and overseas partners in the first instance. The DSS will be transferable to BGGs stone fruit growers, to other UK tree fruit sectors and to other protected and unprotected high-value horticultural production systems in the UK and overseas where improved farming precision is needed to advance sustainable intensification and deliver economic impact.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 530.39K | Year: 2017

In the UK, land devoted to modern apple production is rising at a rate of between 7 and 10% per annum, however (similar to the global situation) the combination of more intensive planting of canker-susceptible cultivars has led to an increase in losses due to the fungal pathogen Neonectria ditissima. Problems in both in-field production (tree death and yield reduction) and post-harvest losses (due to postharvest rot), call for an innovative approach to combat this disease. Approximately 50% of apples produced in the UK are cultivars derived from two progenitor apple varieties, Cox and Gala, both of which are susceptible to fungal canker, indeed these newer varieties such as Kanzi, Rubens and Jazz are extremely susceptible to canker, which has led to large problems in orchard establishment and increasingly post-harvest losses, especially in wet years. In severe cases, in field yield decline can reduce potential pre-harvest yield by at least 25% due to loss of fruiting wood and 5% of postharvest apple crops are lost due to Neonectria infection. There is poor chemical control of canker of trees due to its systemic nature of the disease. It has been shown that the pathogen is often present in the plants from a young age (in the nursery) and that both the rootstock and the scion can be infected, but remain asymptomatic for long periods of time. Natural resistance to canker has been well documented, but extremely poorly deployed in modern rootstock or scion breeding programmes. The reasons for this can be attributed to the complex nature of resistance (making selection without molecular markers difficult), the cost of mass screening to eliminate highly susceptible individuals, different types of resistance (all of which are uncharacterised), the relatively recent re-emergence of the problem and the potentially heterogeneous nature of the pathogen. This proposal will use cutting-edge genomics approaches to identify natural plant-derived resistance to this important pathogen in both scion varieties and in rootstocks. In this project, a multi-parental population will be used to characterise resistance and a combination of targeted genome sequencing techniques and pedigree-based genotyping will be used to accurately narrow down the specific genes responsible for resistance. Once obtained, in proof of principle experiments, genes underpinning the resistance will be transferred into a susceptible cultivar, in order to validate the resistance in other genetic backgrounds. The industry are supporting this proposal through the LINK scheme, as they recognise the need for a comprehensive strategy to identify the genetic basis of disease resistance, for use in marker assisted breeding (MAB) and other breeding techniques.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 431.75K | Year: 2016

We propose to develop a modern platform for rice breeding in Vietnam focused on traits of agronomic interest. Rice is a staple food for a population of 90 million in Vietnam and it is also one of the main exporter commodities of the country. Vietnam is experiencing an exceptional growth in its economic output and population rising as a global leading agricultural country. There is, however, an increasing threat from climate change such as emerging pathogens, periods of droughts and rising sea levels. The areas under greatest risk are the deltas of the Red and Mekong rivers, which represent the major rice growing regions of Vietnam. The rapid selection of rice varieties that are tolerant and resilient to these conditions will help to mitigate some of these challenges and contribute to ensure food security in Vietnam. The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in the UK and the Agricultural Genetics Institute (AGI) in Vietnam initiated a collaboration to sequence the genome of a reduced number of Vietnamese rice varieties with the purpose to characterise the genetic variations in native lines and develop molecular markers that could be used to accelerate rice breeding. The application of new genomics technologies to improve crop breeding is one of the priorities at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) at UK. The proposed project continues the partnership initiated between TGAC and AGI as a collaboration with NIAB. We aim at expanding the pilot project phase I to complete the re-sequencing of around 600 lines. We will complement the generation of these data with the development of databases and the application of bioinformatics pipelines to identify associations of alleles with specific phenotypes. We expect to characterise markers that will enable more efficient rice breeding. The application of modern technologies to rice breeding will also provide an excellent example of how these strategies could be applied to other plant species such as wheat and barley. Rice has a simple genome for which many genomics resources have been already generated and it offers an excellent model for the evaluation and assessment of new strategies for breeding that could later be applied to more complex crops. This collaboration with Vietnam will also open opportunities to work with world leading scientists with experience in rice breeding and agronomy.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 574.69K | Year: 2016

The food retail industry is experiencing increasing demand from consumers for UK grown fresh produce and would like to substitute imports with home produce. The demand for home grown plums cannot currently be met due to unreliable and inefficient cropping systems. This collaborative project will develop integrated new technologies that will address the major existing production problems and limitations for fresh plums. The sustainable intensification of this horticultural crop will be achieved through integration of a high-density growing system with new rootstocks, varieties and manipulation of tree architecture for increased yield, coupled with protected cropping regimes and component technologies that will regulate crop load, fruit ripening and give significant season extension. This intensive and profitable growing system will enable UK growers to confidently invest in plum production, delivering substantial economic impact (>£10 m/yr) to the UK horticulture industry.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 644.83K | Year: 2016

Rice is a staple food for more than half of the worlds population, with more than 90% of rice being consumed in Asia. Pigmented rice, such as black and red rice is traditionally used for food for special occasion. The consumption of pigmented rice is rapidly growing along with the increasing interest in health-promoting functional food. Pigmented rice contains high level of phytochemicals such as anthocyanin, flavonoids and vitamin E. Antioxidant activity of these phytochemicals helps to scavenge radical oxygen species (ROS) in human cell, thus decrease the risk of degenerative diseases such as cancer, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Since the price of pigmented rice is more than twice that of white rice and the potential of pigmented rice in international market is large, growing pigmented rice as an alternative to or together with white rice will give higher income for Philippines farmers. Currently, the Genetic Resources Division of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has more than 800 accessions of pigmented rice collected from various regions of the Philippines. These rice accessions may have nutritional and therapeutic components that can be utilized in the breeding and development of new varieties of pigmented rice, but their potentials has not yet been explored. Through this project the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and the International Rice research Institute (IRRI) will collaborate to screen and characterize Philippine indigenous pigmented rice germplasm to discover those pigmented rice accessions that can be utilized as new donors for pigmented rice breeding. PhilRice and NIAB will characterize the variation in agro-morphological traits, grain quality, nutritional composition, seed coat colour, antioxidant activity and phytochemical properties (anthocyanins, flavonoids) in the pigmented rice germplasm. In addition, IRRI will determine the genetic diversity of pigmented rice germplasm through SNP genotyping using Illumina Infinium 6K chip. Based on this phenotype and genotype data we will select a Core collection of pigmented rice accessions. This Core collection will represent different classes of morphological traits, grain quality, nutritional value, antioxidant activity, phytochemical profiles and genetic subgroup. This Core collection will be used for a thorough study of the antioxidant components within pigmented rice using HPLC and Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS) analysis at NIAB. The genetic basis of the known and potentially novel antioxidant components will be undertaken through a genome-wide association screen (GWAS). Based on the results from the GWAS analysis we will choose several rice accessions that can be utilized as donors. We will identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are closely associated with the phytochemical having high antioxidant activity and develop trait specific SNP markers for marker-assisted selection. SNP markers have the advantage in that they can be used in high-throughput systems, having fast turnaround times and therefore enable breeders to select desirable plant materials in a shorter time.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 1.34M | Year: 2016

Optimising biological nitrogen (N) use is pivotal to maximizing crop yields and ameliorating the adverse environmental impacts of excess agricultural N application. New opportunity exists to provide solutions to cereal crop N use via the translation of basic research into application. The Cambridge-India Network for Translational Research in N (CINTRIN) will establish a complete but flexible pipeline connecting developmental research, crop breeding, agritechnology and extension. The framework of CINTRIN will be provided by the University of Cambridge, NIAB and ADAS, together with ICRISAT, Punjab Agricultural University, NIPGR and the technology companies KisanHub (SME) and BenchBio (SME). The framework partners are widely connected, opening many opportunitites to expand and extend the VJC in future. CINTRIN will provide innovative approaches to tackle crop biological N use. Firstly, it will promote a new understanding of the underpinning science associated with optimization of crop N use, built on an exciting new discovery of distinct life history strategies for N use in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. This work has identified N sensitive (NS) and N insensitive (NIS) types which vary fundamentally in their developmental response to N. This work indicates that the ability to protect seed yield under low N supply appears to come at the expense of the ability to exploit high N supply effectively. This model for developmental N use has the potential to revolutionise the way we think about the N requirements and uses of crops. Within CINTRIN, a translational pipeline will couple the molecular basis of plant development to the physiology of N uptake and partitioning. Through advanced genomics and pre-breeding, new N ideotypes will be defined in crops important for the UK (wheat) and India (wheat, sorghum, pearl and foxtail millet). Field observations and data- driven methods of technology transfer will allow dissemination of the results and ultimately advice on cultivar-specific fertiliser N application to be offered directly to farmers. Secondly, the exchanges in personnel between India and the UK via CINTRIN will enhance the skills of the next generation of plant technologists and provide an exemplar for building capacity in fundamental plant sciences and translation into germplasm and agronomic outputs in both the UK and India. Thirdly, CINTRIN will build on the enterprise and spin-out capacity associated with existing Cambridge and India SME alliances, whereby knowledge can be harnessed by industry to develop wealth and employment in the agri-tech sector. Overall, the vision for CINTRIN is that networks of applied expertise will feed-forward from advances in developmental biology, through to genomics-led pre-breeding of cereal crop staples with optimal biological N use. The JVC will assimilate feedback from CINTRIN translational and outreach activities which relate to sustainable intensification and yield resilience, particularly via farmer networks in the UK and India. In the UK this will be linked to the Defra Sustainable Intensification Platform (SIP; NIAB leads Project 1, investigating Integrated Farm Management for improved economic, environmental and social performance with a group of 30 partners spanning universities, research institutes, farming industry and environmental organisations). CINTRIN will deliver a translational pipeline to produce new ideotypes for optimized N use in agriculture. It will provide training in developmental research, and new knowledge relevant to underpinning optimal biological N use for sustainable intensification. It will promote excellence in science in both the UK and India and provide innovation for application in commercial farming activities.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 574.52K | Year: 2016

UK sales of fresh tomatoes are valued at £625M with UK production providing £175M worth of these sales. Current estimations used to predict production are within 10% correct only 30% of the time. Over-estimation of production results in costly imports, whilst under-estimation incurs financial losses from the disposal of surplus fruit. There is considerable potential to reduce waste and financial losses, and increase the proportion of UK sales by improving the accuracy of weekly production forecasts. We will develop a glasshouse-based imaging system TomVision that is fully automated to predict future production. The proposed scientific and technological innovations represents leading edge applied science and engineering and have not been developed by others for glasshouse production. The consortium will: 1) develop TomVision, an imaging system to count fruit and determine their ripeness; 2) develop an automated platform for TomVision to image fruit in a glasshouse; 3) refine mathematical models to predict production based on the image data generated and future weather conditions (PredictTomPro); 4) test and run the system in UK and NL glasshouses prior to product launch. We will deliver a system that will lead to greater efficiency in the use of resources, improved productivity from waste reduction and improved grower margins from more accurate production forecasts. We anticipate UK revenue gains of £6M p. a. (£30K/ha) farm gate value by adoption of the outputs and further income to project partners by sales of TomVision and PredictTomPro (£1.3M/£11.7M/£26M UK/NL/W total sales for tomato production). The route to market will be via roll-out to other UK tomato growers and overseas partners in the first instance, then to other UK, EU and worldwide producers of tomato towards advancing sustainable intensification and delivering economic impact. The proposed project meets all the requirements of duration, project size, business involvement and RTO lead and balance for an Agri-Tech Catalyst Industrial Research Award. NIAB-EMR will be carrying out their research as a RTO requiring 100% FEC.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 536.25K | Year: 2016

The global demand for wheat is increasing, but so is the distribution and aggressiveness of the pathogens that seriously impact on wheat productivity. The Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that wheat production must increase by 60% by 2050 to meet the demand from the growing human population. The fungal pathogens responsible for rust of wheat are a major constraint to achieving this increase in production and in recent years we have seen numerous epidemics due to the breakdown of rust race-specific resistance (R-) genes. There are three rust pathogens of wheat, stripe (yellow-Puccinia striiformis), leaf (brown-P. triticina) and stem (black-P. graminis) rust. In the UK stripe rust is the most prevalent, occurring every year. Leaf rust has been confined to warmer regions, being prominent in the south-west of England. However, in recent years the UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey has detected leaf rust on wheat as far north as the border with Scotland. This is considered to be as a result of milder winters increasing the ability of the pathogen to overwinter, and warmer springs allowing leaf rust to take hold in regions of the UK where previously it has not been considered a problem. In Brazil leaf rust is the major problem. Many sources of leaf rust resistance used in wheat varieties have proven to be race-specific, with virulence rapidly arising in the P. triticina population, overcoming the resistance after only a few years of deployment in new wheat varieties. However, a small number of slow-rusting, adult plant resistance (APR) genes effective against leaf rust have been reported. These include Lr34, Lr46, Lr67 and Lr68. These leaf rust APR genes have proven effective over long periods of time, large acreages and under high disease pressure. Some of these durable, leaf rust APR genes have now been cloned, confirming, as suspected, that they do not function in the same way at race-specific, leaf rust R-genes. The old Brazilian cv. Toropi contains a unique, durable source of leaf rust APR. Preliminary studies have identified two genes in Toropi which account for 71% of the resistance. However these two genes are poorly defined and we know very little about their mode of action, e.g. at what plant growth stages the leaf rust APR becomes effective and whether environmental factors such as temperature can effect the action of these resistance genes In this study we will improve the genetic resolution of each gene by generating a high-density genetic map of Toropi using state-of-the-art DNA marker systems, and wheat genomic resources. We will develop wheat genetic materials that will enable us to unravel the mode of action of each gene, and marker tools that will enable each leaf rust APR gene to be identified and followed during the process of breeding new improved wheat varieties. We also aim to incorporate these Toropi resistance genes into elite Brazilian wheat varieties, using the marker tools we develop, thereby providing the Brazilian wheat breeder with materials they can enter directly into their wheat breeding programs. To help understand the mode of action and biology underlying these leaf rust APR genes we will study the development of the leaf rust fungal pathogen in wheat at the microscopic level, infecting wheat plants at different stages of it growth and when grown at different temperatures. This project also focusses on the training of young Brazilian researchers, and on broadening the international collaborative research network of the Brazilian team.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 497.97K | Year: 2016

The UK soft fruit industry is a vital part of the UKs rural economy with sales of raspberry estimated at £109M in 2014 (Defra). However, imports have doubled since 2005 and 11kT of berries, worth £59M /year, are imported to satisfy UK consumer demand. UK growers average yields of 13T/ha, although 20T/ha is achievable. A modest 20% increase in marketable yields could raise the value of the UK industry by £15.7M/year, whilst helping to reduce imports. The challenge is to raise yields and reduce waste whilst using resources more sustainably in order to ensure security of future production and to lower the environmental impact of intensive horticulture. The project will develop new opportunities to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the sector. BerryGardens Growers Ltd (BGG), lead partner in this Agri-Tech Catalyst bid, is the UKs leading berry and stone fruit PO with a market share in excess of 30%. The consortium has expertise in soft fruit agronomy and husbandry, crop physiology and nutrition, fungal physiology, food quality science, environmental monitoring, sensor engineering and fuzzy logic inference systems (FLIS), and a strong track record of delivering and exploiting results of publicly-funded R&D. The proposed scientific and technological innovations have not yet been developed by us or others and represent leading edge applied science and engineering. We will: 1) deploy affinity sensors being developed in IUK 101824 to monitor continuously input and output nutrient concentrations, and use a FLIS to predict substrate (coir) ion concentrations; 2) investigate the potential of using AMF to improve resource acquisition and stress resilience; 3) develop Transient Deficit Irrigation (TDI) as a tool to control cane vigour withour reducing yields, thereby reducing labour and production costs; 4) use stress pre-conditioning to improve crop resilience to abiotic and biotic stresses, 5) deliver automated, real-time precision fertigation contronto commercial production using an affinity sensor platform integrated with the Decision Support System (DSS) being developed in IUK 102124. Proof-of-concept of these novel approaches and technologies will be tested in experiments using proprietary raspberry varieties at East Malling Research (EMR). The systems will then be deployed and developed further on BGG grower sites to quantify the potential to deliver greater on-farm fertiliser use efficiency and environmental sustainability, and raise grower margins from higher yields, consistent high quality and increased production efficiency. We anticipate revenue gains to consortium members of c. £8M p.a. arising from adoption of the outputs. The route to market will be via roll-out to BGGs UK soft fruit growers and overseas partners in the first instance, and to other UK and overseas producers of high value horticultural crops where improved farming precision is needed to advance sustainable intensification and deliver economic impact.

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