2 June 1995

Changes at institute for the better

UPHEAVALS intended to strengthen the research capability of the Institute of Arable Crops Research are under way. They incorporate changes in sugar beet research required after the 10% drop in income at Brooms Barn experimental station (News, Apr 14).

The moves include an agreement between the main parties – Rothamsted, Long Ashton Research Station and Brooms Barn – and an advisory board on which the Sugar Beet Research and Education Committee has a seat.

The SBREC decides how to spend the combined levies from growers and British Sugar worth £2.2m a year, says chairman and Shropshire sugar beet grower Hugh Dyas.

This years spending cuts are believed to be about £160,000, most being absorbed by Brooms Barn, leading to several redundancies. But why they should be needed after a run of good seasons remains unclear.

New idea

According to Stephen James, the institutes assistant director, the advisory board is a new idea. Until the changes there was no overseeing body, he says. "It was more a concept than a reality."

Another IACR move involves co-ordinating research under four themes:

&#8226 Inherent plant productivity.

&#8226 Integrated crop production.

&#8226 Sustainable production systems.

&#8226 Environmental interactions.

This should help scientists working in similar areas to be aware of collaborative opportunities, explains Mr Stephens. "Already we are finding new ideas developing."

The SBREC met last week. Mr Dyas says it would be "premature" to comment on the outcome but denies the latest moves are due to over-spending. "This is a major reorganisation. We want to make sure that when we go down a new road we get it right."

Brooms Barn deputy director Peter Longden believes the changes could ultimately benefit the station. "To be linked with the intellectual power of Rothamsted should be a scientific stimulus. If we exploit the situation Brooms Barn could do very well."