Two major new research initiatives have been announced which will put soil ecosystems and future strategies for controlling pests, diseases and weeds in the spotlight.

More than £4.5m of funding has been made available for research into soil ecosystems and their impact on agriculture and food production.

The Global Food Security programme used the opening day of Cereals to put out a call for research proposals which focus on improving understanding of the role of soil.

The funding will come from both the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council.

It is hoped this research will eventually lead to innovations such as crop varieties with altered root characteristics or new management practices which will improve both the sustainability and productivity of farming.

“Understanding the many underground interactions that occur in the soils of our agricultural land could offer big benefits for producing food in a more sustainable way,” said Tim Benton, GFS champion.

“A better understanding of our agricultural ecosystems could help to reduce fertilisers, find alternatives to pesticides or boost yields and protect soils, perhaps the most important and neglected part of our farmland.”

Meanwhile, the Food and Environment Research Agency has announced it is launching a new UK centre for crop protection research.

The government agency has said it will work with major universities to research the sustainable control of pests, disease and weeds.

“Founded on the principles of integrated management, this new crop protection centre will provide sustainable control of pests, diseases and weeds which cause major crop losses and to protect biodiversity,” said Dean Cook, head of science strategy at Fera. 

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