The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has announced £3m worth of investment in six projects designed to improve the quality and yield of oilseed rape, barley and wheat.


The projects, announced at Cereals 2011, are the first to be funded by the £7m Crop Improvement Research Club, which was established to support research which might help to address the challenges of climate change and food security.

The six projects will run for up to five years and focus on a range of problems including improving yield, developing pest and disease resistance, seed dispersal control (to reduce losses through pod shatter in oilseed rape), and improving traits for processing.

Professor Douglas Kell, chief executive of the BBSRC said “The CIRC has created a tremendous opportunity for excellent research to contribute to future food security. The research funded by the club is of relevance to the development of commercial varieties of oilseed rape, barley and wheat, and as such will ensure the high quality research has an impact on the sustainability of food production in the near future.”

Dr Simon Hook, representing HGCA and chair of the CIRC steering group added: “These six projects, selected from an initial 46, are very exciting; expertise within the academic community is absolutely vital to future food security in the UK and beyond. 

“We hope that the support for this work from the plant breeder, food grower and processor community will enable these excellent researchers to generate new knowledge and enhance the fundamental science of oilseed rape, barley and wheat leading to increased productivity and quality.”

The CIRC is funded by BBRSC, the Scottish government and 14 companies representing plant breeders. A second round of funding has also been made available and the deadline is 29 June 2011.

The six projects will look at:

* Development and validation of a flexible genotyping platform for wheat to make it easier to do targeted breeding to create new varieties of wheat.

* Increasing pest resistance in oilseed rape by changing its chemical composition by exposing it to UV-B wavelengths of light

* Exploring knowledge of gene function to combat pod shatter in oilseed rape

* Improving the efficiency with which barley grain is converted into beer and whisky to reduce waste and energy consumption

* Investigating the possibility of improved yield and efficiency of wheat by increasing the performance of photosynthesis

* Exploiting sources of resistance to Turnip yellows virus for deployment in oilseed rape

More Cereals 2011 tech information.