BBSRC NEWS: £4.7M for science to benefit British farming

28 Jul 2015

 BBSRC logo


NIAB and the University of Sheffield have been awarded BBSRC and NERC funding to improve drought and pathogen resistance in wheat by reducing stomatal density. The NIAB research will be led by Dr Jane Thomas and is one of six projects under the £4.7 million funded Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC), supporting innovative research into improving the sustainability of UK farming.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) along with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and 12 industry partners are to fund six research projects to improve the sustainability of UK farming.

The grants totalling £4.7M were funded in the first round of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC), which was developed by BBSRC and NERC, together with industry, to support innovative projects that will provide solutions to key challenges affecting the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.

Among the funded studies is work to improve the drought tolerance of wheat, research to determine the best foodstuffs for ruminant animal health and production, and a project focused on optimising the use of buffer strips to enhance hydrology and water quality.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: “These studies will help address important challenges for the UK’s farming industry, which is worth billions to our economy, and help progress towards sustainable agricultural systems for the future.

“The collaboration between industry and the Research Councils as part of SARIC will streamline the translation of findings from these studies into tangible benefits for producers and consumers, and help us meet the challenge of sustainably feeding a growing world population.”

Iain Gillespie, NERC Director of Science and Innovation, said: “In the 21st Century the global food system faces significant pressures, not least from world population growth and climate change. These projects will help equip the agriculture industry with the knowledge and expertise it needs to find sustainable and affordable ways of meeting these challenges.

“By working with industry to identify big scientific questions and translate research into practical solutions, we can help ensure our world-leading science continues to deliver tangible benefits for our economy and society.”

Industry partners pay a subscription fee to be part of SARIC.

Having contributed to informing and defining the challenges for SARIC, the Club's industry members will continue to steer the programme, participate in funding decisions, and ultimately benefit from their involvement through early access to research and translation outcomes. This five year public-private partnership will result in approximately £10M being invested to address key challenges identified by industry.

The second call for SARIC applications is now open for grant proposals with up to £5M available in research grants and research translation grants. The theme of the call is ‘predictive capabilities for sustainable agriculture’. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is contributing to this call.

For more information about the second SARIC call visit:

The funded projects are:

  • Increasing wheat drought tolerance and recovery throughout the life cycle through regulation of plant growth mechanisms – Professor Matthew Paul, Rothamsted Research
  • Future-proofing our breeding goals - Breeding for climate resilience in UK dairy systems – Professor Eileen Wall, Scotland’s Rural College
  • Magnesium Network (MAG-NET): Integrating Soil-Crop-Animal Pathways to Improve Ruminant Health – Professor Martin Broadley, The University of Nottingham working with colleagues at Aberystwyth University and NERC British Geological Survey
  • Impacts of different vegetation in riparian buffer strips on hydrology and water quality – Professor Adrian Collins, Rothamsted Research
  • Reduced Stomatal Density Wheat: New Prospects for Drought and Pathogen Resistance – Professor Julie Gray, The University of Sheffield working with colleagues at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany
  • Diverse forage mixtures to optimise ruminant animal production, nutrient use efficiency, environmental impact, biodiversity, and resilience – Professor Chris Reynolds, University of Reading, working with colleagues at Rothamsted Research


For further information and to contact BBSRC, click here.