The Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research is cutting at least 40 jobs to offset a projected 2m fall in income in the next financial year.

IGER operates four sites; two near Abersytwyth, Ceredigion including the former Welsh Plant Breeding Station, an upland research facility at Trecastle near Brecon, Powys and one at North Wyke in Devon.

Its work is sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it currently has 300 staff and a turnover of 17m a year.

IGER director Chris Pollock told staff that a 1m shortfall in anticipated DEFRA funding in 2005/06 would severely deplete reserves, and there was a potential 2m income deficit in 2006/07.

There had been a significant reduction in funding for research in sustainable farming and food within DEFRA, which had impacted on the award of new contracts for research in animal science at Aberystwyth and North Wyke.

“I obviously regret strongly that these steps are necessary,” said Prof Pollock.

“I will do everything I can to minimise the impact on both staff and the research programme, but we need to act quickly if the institute is to remain financially and scientifically sustainable.”

Gareth Vaughan, president of Farmers Union of Wales, condemned DEFRA’s decision to divert funding to climate change and alternative crop research.

“It is a disgrace that DEFRA has sanctioned these deep financial cuts and another example of its inability to support agriculture and the environment.

“Although DEFRA pays lip service to the farming industry, its action will have severe consequences for both agriculture and research communities.”