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Non-Food Crops

Novel and Non-Food Crops Projects

Contact Dr Lydia Smith

NIAB novel and non-food crops research specialises in the improvement and development of plant genetic resources using classic and molecular plant breeding approaches, allied to optimisation of agronomy and harvesting techniques. With expertise in genetics, genomics, statistical genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, plant pathology and agronomy we are concentrating on:

  • Development of agronomic solutions for field and glasshouse systems
  • Plant platform development for improved bio-factories, oils, fuel pharmaceuticals & feed products
  • Plant breeding for specific traits in agronomically acceptable plant types
  • Evaluation of present germplasm and characterisation for plant breeding or improved seed production
  • Proven track record in project design and management
  • Expertise in identifying funding sources and attracting funding


  • Laboratory and crop specialists in a wide range of species
  • Experienced technical and management teams
  • Trialing and testing locations in the UK and in Europe
  • Standard and specialist equipment

Crop Capability

Arable Crops

  • Cereals - Building materials, ethanol, soil improvement
  • Oilseeds - plastics, lubricants, other industrial applications
  • Legumes – animal feed, source of tannins 

Livestock Crops

  • Clover/sainfoin –bio-pharmaceuticals
  • Maize - packaging material
  • Grass - various

Ornamental crops new to horticulture

Pharmaceutical Crops

  • Several projects - Privately funded (confidential)

Service support

  • Trials are supported by NIAB’s scientific laboratory and research services
  • Total confidentiality or assistance with planned press and publications
  • Chemical/NIR analysis for fast screening techniques
  • Plant Breeders rights
  • Intellectual Property protection
  • Transfer of UK developed technology to developing countries

 Completed research projects include:

  • Control of diffuse phosphate pollution from pig and poultry production units using a low–Phytate wheat based feed. Supported by LINK Sustainable Arable
  • Healthy Hay and Legume Plus; Development of Sainfoin as a forage crop for sustainable agriculture and animal welfare. Supported by the European Union FP6 and FP7
  • Field cultivation of Artemisia annua in the UK and enhanced extraction of Artemisinin used in novel anti malarial treatments. Supported by Defra
  • Developing an alternative UK industrial crop Artemisia annua, for the extraction of Artemisinin to treat multi-drug resistant malaria. Supported by LINK Renewable Resources
  • To assess and quantify the utility of uncut grass silage as a winter food resource for priority farmland birds and to quantify associated agronomic costs. Supported by Defra
  • The effects of food-plant, cultivar and ecotype on farmland butterfly populations Supported by The Chadacre Trust and RSPB

Ongoing research projects include:

  • Bioboost; an Interreg2Seas project looking at new ways to use waste or crop co-products for production of cosmetics insect cultivation or biopesticides – see also and
  • Improving nutrient use efficiency from anaerobic digestates allied to Cover Crops to improve longer term soil function; an Innovative farmers field lab funded by Soil Association. See also
  • Soil CADRE; (Soil and Cover crop Associations Developing Rhizo-biological Efficiency). Research to understand and improveSoil Microbial Interactions, funded by AHDB and Charities