The Potato Agronomy Unit at the Cambridge University Farm (CUF) is set to become part of NIAB, in a move that strengthens its potato agronomy research.
During the past 30 years, CUF has led the way in developing a greater understanding of the potato crop and its cultivation, working closely with the entire potato supply chain to improve production efficiency and sustainability in this key sector of the arable economy.
According to CUF head of agronomy, David Firman, the transfer to NIAB will enable the unit to maintain its focus on key aspects of the potato crop while broadening understanding into other areas of increasing importance.
“Over three decades, Cambridge University Farm has secured a hard-earned reputation for excellence in potato research, advancing and transferring knowledge in key areas such as soil management, input use, varietal selection and new product development.
“This essential work will continue, while access to NIAB’s genetic research, rotational agronomy and national trialling capabilities opens up new opportunities to address cross-cutting issues of research interest such as climate resilience, water use, nutrient management and carbon release,” said Mr Firman.
NIAB chief executive Tina Barsby added that the move further strengthened NIAB’s position as the UK’s leading centre of applied agronomy and crop genetic research.
“During the past five years, NIAB has undergone a major programme of restructuring and investment to create a national crop research and innovation centre with a unique focus on reconnecting the science base and practical agriculture.
“The integration of the CUF Potato Agronomy Unit as part of an expanding NIAB operation reinforces our commitment to supporting improved crop production, with a presence at all levels within the sector and focused on the needs of progressive farmers and their customers.”
Under the terms of the transfer – to be finalised in the new year – all CUF staff will be retained and the unit will continue to operate from its existing office and laboratory accommodation, with ongoing access to grading sheds, cold stores and other work areas as required. A five-year transitional period is envisaged for full relocation to the NIAB site.
As part of NIAB, CUF will retain strong links with the university’s Department of Plant Sciences, as well as its close involvement with the Cambridge University Potato Growers Research Association (CUPGRA).