A new Cambridge Centre for Crop Science (3CS) has got the go ahead and £16.9m of funding. It is to be a joint initiative between the University of Cambridge and NIAB and will include a dedicated new building at NIAB’s headquarters on Huntingdon Road and new glasshouses and field laboratories at NIAB’s Park Farm site in Histon to support collaborative research.
3CS as an initiative is already up and running using current facilities and staff across the University and NIAB, the new facilities will take this to the next stage. The next 2-3 years will see new projects and research and the recruitment of additional research staff.
Professor Sir David Baulcombe, head of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences and the project lead for the University, explains: “3CS innovations will generate new crops and new ways of growing crops for food, fuels, industrial feedstocks and pharmaceuticals.
“We envisage that new 3CS crop technologies will enable higher crop yields and lower environmental impact for crop-based food production – as well as contributing to improved dietary health.”
Young researchers will be central to the success of 3CS, says Baulcombe, and the best will be recruited from around the world to be trained in interdisciplinary science, including the latest in plant genetics, bioinformatics, computational modelling and statistics.
Strong links with the agricultural industry through NIAB and the Agri-Tech East cluster will mean that 3CS researchers will learn to understand how societal value and industry requirements feed into research design and translation.
While 3CS will make significant contributions to the main globally-traded crops such as wheat and rice, there will be a focus on advances in the genetics and agronomy of other UK crops, such as potato and legumes, and so-called ‘orphan crops’: those that lag behind in technological advances but are vital for smallholder farmers across the developing world.
“The delivery of both public goods and economic growth is an essential agenda for today’s plant scientists, with the need to produce sufficient healthy nutritious food without harming the environment,” said NIAB’s CEO and Director Dr Tina Barsby. “Creating the facilities to bring together NIAB and the University in 3CS presents an extraordinary opportunity for impacting this agenda through the development of world-class science and translation.”