£8.8m project for resilient crops at IBERS

11 April 2017

Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) is starting a £8.8M programme with funding from The Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC).

This new funding is part of a substantial £319M investment announced today to ensure the UK’s bioscience research base remains globally competitive and at the forefront of meeting the grand challenges faced by society in the coming decades.

“BBSRC’s strategic funding investments in research, people and vital national capabilities at world leading bioscience institutes will deliver new knowledge and innovation and help realise the potential of a bio-based economy,” said Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive. “The positive impacts in food, agriculture, energy, materials and health will help drive economic growth and deliver benefits to society across the UK and beyond.”

IBERS is one of a number of BBSRC strategically funded research Institutes across the UK, and the only one in Wales to receive a strategic award and will deliver the BBSRC’s Core Strategic Programme for Resilient Crops.  

The programme is to improve the economic, productive and environmental sustainability of crops in the face of climatic and political change. The funding is confirmed until the end of this spending review period and then indicative, depending on BBSRC’s future allocations.

Professor Mike Gooding Director of IBERS said

“This new investment is significant in enabling IBERS plant breeding scientists to continue as world leaders with nearly 100 years of experience in the development and use of crops in a changing world.”

The BBSRC-funded research at IBERS includes forage grasses, clovers, oats, and more recently the energy grass Miscanthus.

The focus is on developing crop varieties that are able to maintain yield and quality improvements in the face of weather extremes such as drought and flooding, and are more resistant to pests and diseases.

Professor Gooding added “In a post Brexit world, it will be essential that resources are used as efficiently as possible, and that the ecosystems on which we all depend are protected.

There are many ways by which the productivity of our fields can help meet the demands of food, fibre and chemical industries, without compromising our landscape and heritage.

It is particularly pleasing that BBSRC-funded research will use our farm research platforms at Pwllpeiran and Trawsgoed, resulting in unprecedented interaction between BBSRC-funded research and producers, their advisors, and their customers”

Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, said “From flooding to farming and food security, our researchers at IBERS are involved in tackling some of today’s major global challenges. I am delighted that the BBSRC has once more recognised the world-class research being carried out in Gogerddan and welcome this further substantial investment in Aberystwyth University.”

The strategic funding from BBSRC is a major component underpinning more than £15m of research income secured by IBERS each year.

In addition to the investment from  BBSRC, new investments in IBERS for 2017 include: laboratories for veterinary pathology; cutting-edge capabilities to reduce the environmental impact of ruminant production and to improve quality of livestock products; and the launch of our new Well-being and Health Assessment Research Unit (WARU) undertaking research activity to promote health and well-being in the community.