News: 2011

Step forward in FMD understanding

9 December 2011

Scientists have discovered a mechanism they believe may play a key role in the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in animals. Researchers at the University of Leeds have been studying an enzyme - called 3D - which plays a vital role in the replication of the virus behind the disease. They have found that this enzyme forms fibrous structures (or fibrils) during the replication process. What's more, they have found a molecule which can prevent these fibrils forming.

How parasites modify plants to attract insects

8 November 2011

Pathogens can alter their hosts, for example malaria parasites can make humans more attractive to mosquitoes, but how they do it has remained a mystery. Scientists from the John Innes Centre on Norwich Research Park, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), have identified for the first time a specific molecule from a parasite that manipulates plant development to the advantage of the insect host.

UK food and farming benefits from research to combat animal diseases

8 November 2011

Over £11M of research projects are announcing results today (8 November) as part of a concerted effort to help UK farming combat endemic animal diseases. Outcomes of the projects include the possibility of breeding cows that are more resistant to bovine TB and new advice on the management of footrot in sheep.

Scientists to use scent to control destructive rodent behaviour

8 November 2011

Research on the scent signals of mice and rats, by a team at the University of Liverpool and Rothamsted Research, will help inform future rodent-control strategies aimed at reducing the damage they cause to food resources around the world.

Cattle parasite vaccine offers hope to world’s poorest farmers

28 October 2011

A new approach to vaccinating cattle could help farmers worldwide, research suggests.

Scientists funded by BBSRC have developed a technique using a harmless parasite – which lives in cows but has no effect on their health – to carry medicines into the animals' bloodstream.

UK scientists come together to help feed the 7 billion

26 October 2011

The Universities of Exeter and Bristol, in partnership with Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, have officially joined forces to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing humanity: how can we sustainably feed a growing population?

Minister marks milestones in new £100M+ world-class laboratory build

24 October 2011

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, today led a ceremony to mark milestones in construction of a brand new high containment facility at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) in Pirbright, Surrey. He said "The Government has made significant investment in this world-class facility, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of research into animal diseases. This brings benefits for animal and human health, the agricultural industry and global food security. I am very impressed by the outstanding progress being made here at Pirbright."

Breakthrough in the production of flood-tolerant crops

24 October 2011

This week thousands of families lost their homes and crops as flood waters swept across Central America. In Thailand huge tracts of farmland were submerged as the country faced its worst flooding in 50 years. Across the globe agricultural production is at risk as catastrophic flooding becomes a world-wide problem.

A step towards new vaccines for most important chicken parasite

14 October 2011

Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), among others, have taken the first step in developing a new type of vaccine to protect chickens against coccidiosis, the most important parasite of poultry globally.

We must protect biodiversity while tackling food security, warns researcher

12 October 2011

An increasing number of plant species are under threat from the demands being put on agriculture to produce more food to support the growing world population which is increasing by 160,000 every day. In a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society today, Dr Jonathan Storkey has brought together data for the first time on the threat status of plants found in arable habitats across Europe and warns of the importance of protecting plant diversity as we focus on increasing food production.

New research will help make foods healthier, safer and more nutritious

12 October 2011

Over fifty research projects and studies aimed at developing healthier, safer and more nutritious food are to share over £7M of government investment.

The projects and studies will stimulate innovation in the UK's food and drink sector and lead to the development of new technologies and processes, with an emphasis on healthy and safe food.

British research leads to UK launch of Beneforté broccoli

4 October 2011

A new variety of broccoli with higher levels of a key phytonutrient is now available in UK shops thanks to experts working on both the biology of plants and the link between human nutrition and health. The new broccoli, which will be known as Beneforté, was developed from publicly-funded research at two of the UK's world-leading biological research institutes: the Institute of Food Research and the John Innes Centre, which both receive strategic funding from BBSRC.

New insight into plant immune defences

2 October 2011

Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), among others, have identified an important cog in the molecular machinery of plant immunity - a discovery that could help crop breeders produce disease-resistant varieties to help ensure future food security. There may also be implications for treating human immune-related disorders. The research, led by Professor Gary Loake at the University of Edinburgh with colleagues from Syngenta is published this evening (02 October 2011) in the journal Nature.

Pirbright scientist becomes a Visiting Professor of the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology

29 September 2011

Dr John Anderson MBE of the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) at Pirbright, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, has this month (September) been made a Visiting Professor of the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST). This is in recognition of his longstanding involvement in the development of biotechnology for Africa, specifically in relation to the development and application of diagnostics for the control of infectious diseases of livestock. As a Visiting Professor at the NM-AIST, which is located in north-east Tanzania, John will mentor Master's and PhD students as well as post-doctoral researchers, and help them to develop their careers.

Increasing food and fuel production – thinking outside the box

27 September 2011

New research projects, announced by BBSRC in September, aimed at overcoming some of the fundamental limitations to exploiting photosynthesis could lead to major increases in crop yields for food, bioenergy and in the production of renewable chemicals.

Livestock sellers should provide more information about disease risk, say researchers

21 September 2011

Scientists from the UK research councils' Rural Economy and Land Use programme, which receives funding from BBSRC and others, say that better information for buyers could provide the key to controlling many endemic livestock diseases.

Resources from Africa College food security conference

16 September 2011

Over 170 people attended the first Africa College International Conference on Food Security, Health and Impact held in Leeds, 22-24 June, 2011. The meeting looked at the complex challenges of achieving food security in the context of global warming, increasing population and constrained resources, whilst also protecting the environment.

GFS Champion appointed

15 September 2011

The Global Food Security programme (GFS) has appointed a Champion to take on the key role of coordinator and spokesperson for the group. GFS brings together the UK's main public funders of food security related research to coordinate efforts and deliver added-value from their collective activities in this area. The GFS Champion will drive forward co-ordination of research activities, as well as contributing leadership and networking to the programme.

12 projects to tackle most common food poisoning bacteria

9 September 2011

12 projects, bringing together researchers from across disciplines, will study Campylobacter in the food chain, from field to plate. Together, the projects cover a comprehensive range of questions about Campylobacter, which is the leading cause of food poisoning in the UK.

New form of resistance to light leaf spot discovered in oilseed rape

2 September 2011

A team of researchers funded by BBSRC and KWS UK Ltd and led by Professor Bruce Fitt, formerly of Rothamsted Research and now at the University of Hertfordshire, has found a new form of resistance to the damaging pathogen that causes light leaf spot in oilseed rape - one of the world's most important crops.

New genome sequence could improve important agricultural crops

30 August 2011

An international team of scientists, funded in the UK by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has sequenced the genome of a Chinese cabbage variety of a plant called Brassica rapa, a close relative of oilseed rape. The research, which is published today (28 August 2011) in the journal Nature Genetics, could help improve the efficiency of oilseed rape breeding, as well as that of a host of other important food and oil crops.

Africa and UK scientists make a significant breakthrough in protecting crops from pests

11 August 2011

In research published today, a team of scientists from Africa and the UK have made a breakthrough that will help in developing novel and ecologically sound approaches to controlling destructive insect pests in maize crops, specifically the spotted stemborer (Chilo partellus) which destroys the plant by tunnelling into the stalk and disrupting the flow of nutrients. This finding will help in increasing maize yields and improving food security.

Dissecting the genomes of crop plants to improve breeding potential

1 August 2011

BBSRC-funded scientists on the Norwich Research Park, working with colleagues in China, have developed new techniques that will aid the application of genomics to breeding the improved varieties of crop needed to ensure food security in the future. By dissecting the complicated genome of oilseed rape they have been able to produce maps of the genome that are needed for predictive breeding.

Plant immunity discovery boosts chances of disease-resistant crops

28 July 2011

Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have opened up the black box of plant immune system genetics, boosting our ability to produce disease- and pest-resistant crops in the future. The research is published this evening (28 July) in the journal Science.

Beetles play an important role in reducing weeds

25 July 2011

Researchers funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the French Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) have found that ground beetles reduce the amount of weed seeds in the soil. Weeds reduce crop yields and these findings support the need to conserve farmland biodiversity as it plays an important supporting role to herbicides in controlling weeds and improving food security.

International knowledge hub to link climate change and food security research

13 July 2011

BBSRC-funded researchers are invited to join a virtual knowledge hub in the area of agriculture, food security and climate change. This is under a new European Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) jointly led by BBSRC and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).

UK scientists tackle food security

13 July 2011

The Universities of Exeter and Bristol, in partnership with Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, are joining forces to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing humanity: how can we feed a growing population?

Combating the superpests: the battle to save our food

5 July 2011

Scientists from Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), are presenting their research at the Royal Society's annual Summer Science Exhibition which opens today (5 July 2010) with the display "Combating the superpests: the battle to save our food".

Peste des Petits Ruminants could be next virus for eradication

1 July 2011

In a scientific editorial in Veterinary Record to be published on 1st July 2011, top researchers have said that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) should focus on peste des petits ruminants (PPR) virus as the next livestock virus for eradication. PPR virus, which is a close relative of the recently eradicated rinderpest virus of cattle, affects sheep and goats.

How bumblebees tackle the travelling salesman problem

30 June 2011

It is a mathematical puzzle which has vexed academics and travelling salesmen alike, but new research from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, can reveal how bumblebees effectively plan their route between the most rewarding flowers while travelling the shortest distances.

G20 endorses international wheat improvement effort to improve food security

29 June 2011

Agriculture Ministers from the G20 group of nations have adopted the International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement (IRIWI), which will be funded for coordination activity in part by BBSRC.

The historic agreement between the Ministers of Agriculture of the G20 in Paris underlines the importance of increasing world agricultural production, in particular that of wheat, to resolve the urgent challenge of sustainably providing enough safe, nutritious and affordable food for a growing global population.

Meet & Eat video

16 June 2011

Wednesday 23 March 2011 saw the inaugural Meet & Eat event - a series of meetings aiming to address 'food of the future' issues in a dynamic, innovative and interactive way - take place at Museum Boerhaave, Leiden, Netherlands.

BBSRC at Cereals 2011: New projects to develop improved crops for food security

15 June 2011

On the morning of the first day of Cereals 2011, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is pleased to announce the first of two tranches of projects to be funded by the £7M Crop Improvement Research Club (CIRC). These projects, funded by BBSRC, the Scottish Government and 14 companies representing plant breeders, farmers and food processors, will carry out research to improve the quality and yield of oilseed rape, barley and wheat. BBSRC staff and researchers will be available at stand I945 at Cereals to discuss these and other projects as well as running a panel event each day.

Management of infectious animal and plant diseases is vital for food security

9 June 2011

We face a future of uncertainty, and possible new threats to our food supplies, natural heritage, and even human health, from animal and plant diseases.

Joint workshop to provide early input into Global Food Security priorities

8 June 2011

Global Food Security and Foresight are holding a workshop in London today to explore how the GFS programme can address the findings of the Foresight's recent Global Food and Farming Futures report.

Breeder's tool kit to boost sustainable wheat farming

24 May 2011

A new project being led by the John Innes Centre, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, is to develop a 'breeder's tool kit' that will help breed wheat varieties that produce higher quality flour and reduce wastage, boosting the economic and environmental sustainability of wheat farming in the UK. Working with four breeding companies (RAGT, Limagrain, KWS and Lantmännen SW Seed) and the HGCA will ensure that this toolkit will be exactly what is needed to drive discoveries from fundamental research into improved varieties

Industry specialists to be trained in advanced food security skills under new scheme

23 May 2011

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has awarded funding for four major new training programmes for industry specialists working in vital niche areas within the agri-food sector, it is announced today (23 May 2011).

Developing innovative processes to ensure fresh food is safe

11 May 2011

Researchers from IFR, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, have recently reviewed the use of cold atmospheric plasmas to inactivate Salmonella to assess their use by fresh or minimally-processed food producers.

Global science network to protect against animal diseases

9 May 2011

The UK will be better protected against animal diseases like avian flu and foot and mouth thanks to a global network of scientific research to be launched by Defra this week. Increasingly globalised movements of animals, people and food have raised the risk of animal diseases spreading to the UK, which could have serious economic, environmental and health consequences.

Foot-and-mouth disease: controlling outbreaks

5 May 2011

Better understanding of foot-and-mouth disease offers potential for alternatives to culling. Research published in the journal Science shows that scientists have uncovered a window of opportunity when it is possible to identify cattle infected with foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) before they become infectious and/or show symptoms.

BBSRC engaging with the agricultural community this spring and summer

18 April 2011

BBSRC - the UK's largest public funder of agriculture and food related research - is hitting the road in coming months to exhibit at several major agricultural trade shows. Exhibits and events at the shows will give farmers, growers and breeders the chance to engage with cutting-edge science and innovation that underpin advances in this multi-billion pound sector.

Africa College conference launches food security and health research prize

13 April 2011

To accompany the Africa College conference on Food Security, Health and Impact knowledge brokering conference in June we are holding a competition on impact of research results on food security and human health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Scotland’s new research ‘super institute’

6 April 2011

Scotland has a brand new research ‘super institute’ with the job of tackling some of the world’s most challenging problems including the impact of climate change and threats to food and water security.

The James Hutton Institute formally launches today at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and brings together the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute in Aberdeen and SCRI, Scotland’s world renowned centre for crop research and breeding, based at Invergowrie near Dundee.

Scientists aim to improve photosynthesis to increase food and fuel production

28 March 2011

Scientists in the UK and USA have today (28 March) been awarded funding totalling £6.11M/$10.3M to improve the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis allows biological systems to convert sunlight into food and the source of all the fossil fuels we burn today. Four transatlantic research teams will explore ways to overcome limitations in photosynthesis which could then lead to ways of significantly increasing the yield of important crops for food production or sustainable bioenergy.

UK-Vietnam collaboration to improve world's most important staple food

22 March 2011

Today (22 March) the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) announces the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on rice genomics research with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) in Vietnam. This heralds the start of a major effort to improve flood, drought, salt and pest tolerance in the world's most important staple food in the face of a changing climate and growing population.

Jimmy’s Farm Science Festival: The Story of Milk

18 March 2011

What do cows eat? How do we get milk from cow to breakfast table? When a cow is poorly, what happens? What's it like to milk a cow? Discover answers to all these questions and more at Jimmy's Farm this weekend where researchers from the Institute for Animal Health (an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), which has laboratories in Berkshire and Surrey, will be demonstrating ‘The Story of Milk’.

Champion for the Global Food Security Programme

16 March 2011

Working nationally and internationally, this unique post offers the opportunity to make a key contribution to Global Food Security, by helping to meet the challenge of providing the world’s growing population with a sustainable and secure supply of safe, nutritious and affordable food.

JIC geneticists find pea quality controls

11 March 2011

Legumes, such as peas, are an economically important source of protein for food and animal feed, and there has been a constant drive to improve the content and quality of protein in these crops. Targetted breeding programmes have faced difficulties, due to the complex genetic basis for these traits.

Anaerobic digestion on farms could turn agriculture green

4 March 2011

A typical dairy farm could supply most of the electricity it needs to milk the cows, by converting their manure into energy and it would help the Government to hit green energy targets and cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to researchers from the UK research councils’ Rural Economy and Land Use Programme.

Camera technology poised to improve farm animal welfare

22 February 2011

With meat consumption rising worldwide and poultry meat the most popular by far, there is pressure to increase production. This must be done alongside commensurate improvements in animal welfare.  Today (22 February), researchers describe an ingenious small-scale camera and computer set-up that is poised to improve the welfare of farm animals including, in particular, broiler chickens. By helping to ensure that sustainable increases in production are paired with improved animal welfare, this technology will contribute to addressing the challenges of global food security, providing everyone with a safe, healthy and nutritious supply of affordable food.

£7M for public wheat pre-breeding programme announced

21 February 2011

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has today announced a £7 million grant to a consortium of researchers to increase the diversity of traits available in wheat via a comprehensive pre-breeding programme - the first of its kind in the UK in over 20 years. This project will be important to ensure the sustainability of wheat production in the UK and beyond at a time when we are facing a growing global population and changing environment.

Global Food Security at the NFU conference 2011

18 February 2011

The Global Food Security partnership attended the NFU Conference 2011 with a display presented by BBSRC. In the following video, BBSRC representatives discuss recent developments in the Global Food Security partnership and highlights from attending the conference.

Key to aphid invasion success found

16 February 2011

Aphids are some of the most destructive insect pests of crop plants, not only through the damage they cause from feeding but also through transmitting a variety of economically important diseases.  Part of what makes them so effective is the way they can control some of the activities of plants, suppressing their defences and so helping the aphids feed.  New research from the John Innes Centre, an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, has identified components of the aphid’s saliva that manipulate the plants defences.

Novel imaging technique looks inside starch granules

11 February 2011

Starch is the major storage compound in plants, and a major component of cereal grains and so is an important part of our food.  For this reason BBSRC-funded scientists are keen to understand how it is made and stored by the plant, and how changes to the plants genes could affect the composition and properties of the starch in the grain.  IFR scientists have developed a method of visualising and measuring the properties of the starch in a developing maize kernel, revealing previously unidentified properties.  This could have a practical application in screening varieties for novel starch properties, or help in the selection of novel starches for industrial applications.

Research strategy launched to help meet food security challenge

10 February 2011

The UK's major public funders of national and international food-related research have today (10 February) published their co-ordinated plan for research to help the world avoid a potential food security crisis. Providing the world's growing population with a sustainable and secure supply of safe, nutritious and affordable high quality food from less land and with lower inputs presents a considerable challenge.

£15M research and development competition to focus on sustainable protein production

3 February 2011

The Technology Strategy Board – in partnership with Defra, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Scottish Government – is launching a collaborative research and development competition with up to £15M available to invest in projects focusing on the challenge of Sustainable Protein Production. 

Two genes better than one for important plant pest

1 February 2011

Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have revealed a novel molecular mechanism that triggers plant infection by Pseudomonas syringae, the bacteria responsible for bacterial speck in tomatoes. The scientists from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London have revealed how two genes in the bacteria work together to launch the infection process that ultimately kills the plant’s cells and causes disease, significantly reducing crop quality and yield.

Future of Food and Farming report welcomed

24 January 2011

The publication of the Foresight report ‘The Future of Food and Farming’ has been welcomed as a valuable contribution to thinking about the action needed to avert a food security crisis.

GM chickens breakthrough to prevent spread of bird flu

14 January 2011

Researchers funded by BBSRC have developed chickens that are genetically modified to prevent them from spreading bird flu to other chickens. If this genetic modification is introduced into poultry flocks in the future it has the potential to protect the health of the birds and so increase the production of meat and eggs. It could also reduce the risk of bird flu epidemics that can lead to new flu outbreaks in the human population.

Major international research initiative launched to improve food security for developing countries

11 January 2011

In a unique and important move to harness science to improve food security for millions of people in the developing world, research funders from the UK and USA and government departments in the UK and India have today (11 January) announced a new £20M/$32M joint research initiative.

Global Food Security and BBSRC at the Oxford Farming Conference 2011

11 January 2011

The Global Food Security Partnership attended the Oxford Farming Conference 2011 with a display presented by BBSRC. The need for research to underpin future food security was discussed throughout the conference and the Global Food Security stand proved a useful focus for discussion and attracted one very high profile visitor.

Targets to tackle Campylobacter food poisoning

5 January 2011

The UK government and industry have together set a target to reduce the incidence of Campylobacter, the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning in the UK, in British poultry by 2015.