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Government-Industry Consortium Selects U.K. Cereals Studies

Flowering canola field (ARS)

Flowering canola field (Agricultural Research Service, USDA)

A committee of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) selected nine new research projects for funding that involve the U.K.’s main cereal crops: oilseed rape, barley and wheat. The funds for the research total some £4 million ($6.45 million) from Crop Improvement Research Club, a consortium of BBSRC, Scottish government, and 14 private companies.

The funded studies aim to help plants to use nutrients more efficiently, develop a better understanding of germination, and investigate factors that control pest and disease resistance. This round of research includes an investigation into methods growers in the U.K. can use to breed wheat that produces better bread, with lower levels of salts, fats, and emulsifiers.

Another project will look into ways of improving yields of oilseed rape, an important crop for oil and animal feed — of which canola (pictured at top) is one variety —  by studying how plants foster beneficial microorganisms in their roots. Two projects funded by the consortium aim to grow better barley crops that are easier to process during brewing.

The research will be carried out by scientists at the James Hutton Institute, University of Warwick, National Institute of Agricultural Botany, University of Nottingham, Scottish Agricultural College, and Rothamsted Research. The industry members of the consortium are BASF Plant Science Company GmbH, Campden Technology Ltd, Elsoms Seeds, HGCA, KWS UK Ltd, Limagrain UK Ltd, Monsanto UK Ltd, National Association of British and Irish Millers, RAGT Seeds Ltd, Scotch Whisky Research Institute, Syngenta Seeds Ltd, United Oilseeds Marketing Ltd, and Velcourt.

The Crop Improvement Research Club announced its first round of funded research in June 2011, with the first results of those studies discussed this month in Warwick. “The projects funded in the second call complement those of the first call,” says Simon Hook who chairs the group, “and hence cover a wide range of topics that will benefit all involved from breeders to consumers.”

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