NEWS: Cambridge University Farms Potato Agronomy Unit to transfer to NIAB

4 Dec 2012

The Potato Agronomy Unit at Cambridge University Farms (CUF) is set to become part of NIAB in a move which strengthens the future of world-leading potato agronomy research at the Cambridge-based Unit, while opening up promising new areas of collaborative research to meet the future needs of UK potato growers and their customers.

Over 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.”

NIAB chief executive Dr Tina Barsby said the move further strengthened NIAB’s position as the UK’s leading centre of applied agronomy and crop genetic research:

“Over the past five years NIAB has undergone a major programme of re-structuring and investment to create a national crop research and innovation centre with a unique focus on re-connecting 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), a Society of the University with a wide membership of growers, packers, processors, agronomists and others with a strong interest in the development of potato industry.

Professor Sir David Baulcombe, Head of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, said:

“The University is extremely proud of CUF’s contribution over 30 years to improved production in the potato crop. Transferring the Agronomy Unit to NIAB will open up new opportunities for CUF within an expanding and progressive centre for applied crop research. This move will also strengthen links between the University and NIAB at the heart of a thriving plant science community in Cambridge.”

CUPGRA President Sir Ben Gill said the move would consolidate and enhance CUF’s position as an unrivalled source of research and agronomy expertise within the potato sector.

“Both NIAB and the Cambridge University Farm have a reputation for independence and integrity, and they share a commitment to ensuring the benefits of high-quality research are transferred effectively into practical agriculture. Combining this expertise within a single organisation will open up new opportunities for research, development and innovation within the potato sector.”