Leading Plant Breeder John Bingham Opens New Cambridge Labs

4 Jun 2008

Pioneering plant breeder John Bingham CBE, FRS yesterday (23 June) officially opened a new laboratory named after him at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Huntingdon Road, Cambridge.

Mr Bingham’s innovative approach to plant breeding contributed considerably to establishing winter wheat as the mainstay of UK crop production. Mr Bingham, who was based at the Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge for 40 years, lives in Norfolk where he farms.

The John Bingham Laboratory provides the latest state of the art facilities for NIAB’s cutting edge research projects. It was recently refurbished and equipped with a grant from the NIAB Trust

NIAB’s Research Director, Prof Andy Greenland, said the lab was named after Mr Bingham in recognition of his considerable contribution to wheat breeding in the UK, an activity which is at the heart of a good part of the research undertaken in the new lab.

He said:

“John Bingham is a regular visitor at NIAB and his experience and knowledge continues to help us and many others in the breeding community. It is a great honour for NIAB to recognise his continuing involvement by naming our research facility after him.”

Mr Bingham said he considered it an honour to have the NIAB laboratory named after him, and that it was a tribute to the work carried out by his team at the Plant Breeding Institute.

He was introduced by Dr Richard Summers, who was part of Mr Bingham’s team at the PBI, and now leads Cereal Breeding at RAGT, a French company which operates from the former PBI site.

Mr Bingham joined the PBI in 1954 where he worked until 1987 when the plant breeding programmes at PBI were privatized. He continued his plant breeding career at Plant Breeding International Cambridge Ltd until June 1991. During his time at PBIC he saw the establishment of cereal breeding stations in France and Germany. After retirement he continued to work as a consultant for much of the 1990’s.

Initially appointed to work on breeding wheat for bread making quality John Bingham went on to become the pre-eminent cereal breeder of his time. He produced many commercially successful and landmark varieties. Over 35 varieties bred by his team have been recommended, including Maris Huntsman, Virtue, Avalon, Norman, Galahad, Mercia, Rendezvous, Riband and Beaver.

Throughout his career John Bingham always strove to integrate relevant plant science research onto practical breeding and has had a lifelong interest in the physiology of the wheat plant. In addition to his legacy of improved wheat varieties, he has been responsible for mentoring a majority of wheat breeders active in the UK today.

Since 2006, the number of research scientists at NIAB have tripled from about 10-12 to a group of 36 as demands for their scientific skills have increased with projects based in the UK and collaborative work overseas. Prof Wayne Powell, NIAB Chief Executive, and Prof Greenland, described how the new laboratory marked a turning point for their cutting edge research projects. A tour of the laboratory was held following a strawberry tea.

Further information is available from Prof Andy Greenland.

Press enquiries can also be made to Ellee Seymour, 01353 648564 or 07939 811961.The subject gets used as the item title. Please use small font size for regular text, and medium or large for a subtitle within the news item.