UK crop researchers could boost yields of a vitally important global food crop by going back to its wild relatives to find new sources of disease resistance.
Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is an important staple for over 500 million people worldwide, grown for food and known in its dried form as tapioca, as animal feed and as a fuel source. The crop’s importance is set to grow with changing climates, but so too will threats from a number of pests and diseases which can devastate yield.
Combining methods of disease control rather than relying on a single resistance strategy can extend the durability of crops by many years, confirms computer modelling that draws on classical population genetics theory.
Rothamsted Research has secured government funding to kick-start its new five-year strategic programme, Smart Crop Protection (SCP), to control sustainably the pests, pathogens and weeds that destroy nearly a third of crops grown worldwide. The investment of circa £6.3 million covers the programme’s first three years.
A new industry-level food training body launched today will tackle key questions facing the future of farming and the food business.
The AgriFood Training Partnership will combine the complimentary skills and knowledge of six university partners who are internationally recognised leaders in agrifood research and training. The partnership will offer more than 150 courses and workshops in all areas of agricultural production, environmental protection, food manufacture, scientific research and development and associated business and transferable skills.
Studies carried out by Warwick University‘s Dr Lauren Chappell, now an Elsoms plant pathologist, have identified the three main pathogens responsible for parsnip canker, providing a secure platform for the development of disease-resistant lines. Elsoms, a global leader in parsnip breeding, is investing heavily in research, state-of-the art breeding techniques and seed production to bring UK growers the very best varieties.