A new Crop Science Centre has opened in Cambridge, aiming to improve farmers’ yields sustainably by translating research.
An alliance between the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences and the crop research organisation NIAB, it will serve as a global hub for crop science research.
Collaborations with research partners around the world are planned to ensure that Cambridge science is translated into global agricultural impact.
The inaugural director is Professor Giles Oldroyd, Russell R Geiger professor of crop science at the University of Cambridge, who leads an international programme to replace inorganic fertilisers.
Research at the state-of-the-art facility , on the NIAB site, will focus on reducing agricultural reliance on such chemical inputs, while maximising crop productivity, particularly for the world’s poorest farmers.
Prof Oldroyd said: “This year we have seen how fragile our global systems are. The Covid-19 crisis is exposing another 120 million people to starvation worldwide, while crop yields here in the UK are suffering from changes in our climate.
“We need lasting solutions for stable and secure food production, but also need to improve sustainability in agriculture. We are excited to be opening this new centre, which can drive the transformative change we so desperately need.”
The “pillars of excellence” within the centre are crop nutrition, plant interactions with pests and pathogens and the enhancement of photosynthesis.
Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said: “Urgent action is required to sustainably provide enough quality food for the world’s growing population. By combining our expertise in fundamental plant science with NIAB’s long experience in crop improvement, I am confident that we will make progress towards this vital goal.”
Dr Tina Barsby, CEO of NIAB, added: “Through transformative crop science technologies, research at the new centre aims to ensure even the world’s poorest farmers can grow enough food. This work is at the top of the international agenda.”
Private donations from the late Russell R Geiger and Robert and Susan Cawthorn helped to establish the centre, alongs with donations from NIAB and the Cambridge University Potato Growers Research Association (CUPGRA).
Prof Oldroyd’s research programme is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.