Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Can conservation agriculture combat climate change in tropical regions?

An analysis of 76 studies in two distinct tropical regions of the world shows that conservation agriculture leads to only marginal increases in soil carbon stocks.

Conservation agriculture (often termed CA) is often claimed to lock up (“sequester”) carbon in soil and thus contribute to the “mitigation” of climate change.

Indo-UK Centre for the improvement of Nitrogen use Efficiency in Wheat (INEW)

A new Virtual Joint Centre brings together major UK and Indian researchers with programmes on wheat improvement to determine the genetic control of nitrogen use efficiency in wheat.

The Indo-UK Centre for the improvement of Nitrogen use Efficiency in Wheat (INEW) was launched today at the Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (ICAR-IIWBR, Karnal, Haryana, India). The centre will generate new types of wheat with improved use of nitrogen, which can be used in breeding programmes in both countries, carrying out a joint research programme, developing shared technologies and facilities and providing training opportunities for early career scientists.

Huge carbon stores discovered under UK grasslands

A nationwide survey by ecologists has revealed that over 2 billion US tons of carbon is stored deep under the UK’s grasslands, helping to curb climate change.

Published in the leading journal Global Change Biology, the study shows that decades of intensive grassland farming across the UK, involving high rates of fertilizer use and livestock grazing, have caused valuable soil carbon stocks to decline.

The team found that the largest soil carbon stocks to depth were beneath grasslands that have been farmed at intermediate levels of intensivity, receiving less fertilizer and with fewer grazing animals.

Professor John Lucas made an Honorary Member of the British Society for Plant Pathology

In recognition of his outstanding contribution to plant pathology, Professor John Lucas has recently been made an Honorary Member of the British Society for Plant Pathology.

John Lucas, formerly Head of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Rothamsted Research, has recently been made an Honorary Member of the British Society for Plant Pathology (1), an award “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to plant pathology”. John spent the first half of his career in the university sector, and moved to Long Ashton Research Station, Bristol in 1994 to work in a more strategic research Institute environment. He transferred to Rothamsted Research in 2000.

Rothamsted Research submits application to Defra for permission to carry out field trial with GM Camelina plants

The trial will test whether GM Camelina sativa plants are able to make significant quantities of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) and astaxanthin in the seed of the plant under field conditions. A public consultation has begun.

Rothamsted Research has submitted an application to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for permission to carry out a GM field trial on the Rothamsted Farm in 2016 and 2017. Scientists at Rothamsted Research, who receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), have previously trialed in the field Camelina plants that accumulate omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) in their seeds.

A study of the genetic code of bed bugs reveals that these human blood feeders are adaptive and hardy

An international study, involving Rothamsted Research, allows scientists, for the first time, to read the genetic make up of bed bugs, and begin to understand genes linked to the insect’s adaptive biology and behavior.

Much like how our eyes scan a sequence of letters to read and understand a sentence of English, scientists have, for the first time, sequenced and annotated the genetic code of the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius). This has allowed them to read the bed bug genetic makeup and make big steps in understanding the genes which are linked to evolutionary adaptations in the insect’s biology and behaviour. The research, which was carried out by a group of over 80 scientists based across the world, is today [2nd February] published in Nature Communications.

Unravelling the mechanism of chloroplast inheritance in wheat

A new study using high-resolution imaging during wheat sperm cell development reveals the way that chloroplasts are passed from one generation to another via only the maternal parent.

Chloroplasts are important structures in plant cells that perform photosynthesis and mature from small precursors called plastids. Wheat, like many other plants, inherit their chloroplasts only from their mother via the egg cell. However, the mechanism that leads to this was not known. Scientists at Rothamsted Research and colleagues at the University of Manchester labelled plastids in wheat with a green fluorescent protein (GFP) and observed them in developing pollen grains. They show for the first time that plastids are degraded in mature sperm cells just prior to fertilization.

Fatty acids from GM oilseed crops could replace fish oil

Researchers at the University of East Anglia studied the effect in mice of consuming feed enriched with oil from glasshouse grown genetically engineered Camelina sativa, developed at Rothamsted Research.

Oil from genetically modified (GM) oil seed crops could replace fish oil as a primary source of the beneficial Omega 3 fatty acid EPA.

The goal of the research was to discover whether mammals (using mice as a model) can absorb and accumulate EPA from this novel source of omega-3s.

The team examined levels of EPA in various organs in the body such as the liver, as well as its effect on the expression of genes key for regulating the way the body processes fats. The results show that the benefits were similar to those derived from fish oils.

Global Farm Platform Conference to highlight the value of knowledge exchange between dairy farmer and sustainable livestock production researcher

Research findings from data shared between farmer and researcher will be presented at the inaugural Global Farm Platform Conference, University of Bristol, 12-15 January 2016.

The University of Bristol is hosting the inaugural Global Farm Platform Conference from, today, Tuesday 12 to Friday 15 January.

Boosting farm yields to restore habitats could create greenhouse gas ‘sink'

Using UK data study shows that raising farm yields and allowing ‘spared’ land to be reclaimed for woodlands and wetlands could offset greenhouse gas produced by farming industry

New research into the potential for sparing land from food production to balance greenhouse gas emissions has shown that emissions from the UK farming industry could be largely offset by 2050. This could be achieved if the UK increased agricultural yields and coupled this with expanding the areas of natural forests and wetlands to match its European neighbours.

Modelling farmers' decisions and their effect on ecological systems at the landscape scale

Demonstrating a model framework for understanding feedback mechanisms between the actions of humans and ecological systems, using the example of European corn borer.

Models of pests and diseases help us to understand the implications of control strategies at field to landscape scale, but the behaviour of individual farmers should also be considered. Rothamsted Research scientists, in collaboration with researchers in the US, used game theory concepts to build a model framework for understanding feedback mechanisms between the actions of humans and the dynamics of pest populations. They demonstrate this framework with an example about the European corn borer, a moth whose larval phase is a major pest of maize.

The CROPROTECT App: a new mobile phone App to assist in crop protection decision making

The CROPROTECT App shares information with farmers and agronomists about pest, weed and disease management.

Crop protection is an issue of increasing concern in the farming community. Improved access to information about managing pests, weeds and diseases is needed as conventional pesticides are being lost due to evolution of resistance or because of changes in legislation. The CROPROTECT App is a novel smartphone App (for Android and iOS) and provides information for farmers and agronomists about pest, weed and disease management.

Biodiversity bounces back

Grassland biodiversity recovers once atmospheric nitrogen pollution reduces.

Air pollution is a human health issue that also impacts negatively on natural ecosystems. In excessive quantities, forms of nitrogen (N) released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and from agriculture are a pollutant.

Biomass crops can enhance landscape biodiversity

Planting of biomass crops in arable farmland can increase landscape-level biodiversity to support ecosystem function and resilience

Non-food, perennial biomass, crops such as willows and miscanthus, can contribute to the reduction of CO2 and play a role in mitigation against climate change. Rothamsted Research scientists and colleagues in France, examined the potential of these crops to enhance biodiversity at the landscape level. The researchers used biodiversity datasets collected throughout the UK from commercial arable and biomass bioenergy crops and demonstrate for the first time that the biomass crops enhance farmland biodiversity at the landscape -level.

Rothamsted Research and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences establish a joint Centre for the Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture

The UK-China joint Centre for the Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture (CSIA) will be an open platform for research, knowledge exchange and capacity building.

Today (Tuesday 24th November) Rothamsted Research, which is strategically funded by the BBSRC, and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) signed into effect a Co-operation Agreement outlining plans to establish the UK-China joint Centre for the Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture (CSIA).  Rothamsted Research and numerous prestigious Chinese organisations and scientists have long and established fruitful collaborations.

Future adaptation for wheat cultivation will be limited by adverse weather in Europe

Modelling predicts that shifting wheat production to different regions in Europe may not be possible by the end of the century, as exposure to adverse weather in European arable farming areas will increase.

In a modelling study, a group of international scientists, including Rothamsted Research, which is strategically funded by the BBSRC, explored the question on how climate change will alter the probability of adverse weather events in Europe by the end of the century. The study focused on wheat producing areas and examined how wheat cultivation adaptation strategies may be affected under the predicted scenarios.

The North Wyke site of Rothamsted Research launched as a LEAF Innovation Centre

The North Wyke site of Rothamsted Research becomes LEAF’s eighth Innovation Centre – a network of research organisations whose work supports the research, evidence, development and promotion of Integrated Farm Management.

A new LEAF Innovation Centre is being launched today by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), the leading organisation promoting sustainable farming. The North Wyke site of Rothamsted Research in Okehampton, Devon becomes the latest site to join LEAF’s network of Innovation Centres. It will showcase sustainable farming methods, particularly in the area of grassland systems, and support the development and promotion of sustainable farming through Integrated Farm Management.

Speaking at the launch today, Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive of LEAF said:

Illuminating Life: Personal Encounters

A children and young adults Photo-story Competition as Rothamsted Research marks the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, 2015.

Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from the BBSRC, is delighted to announce the children and young adults Photo-story Competition -Illuminating Life: Personal Encounters. This initiative forms part of the Institute’s celebration of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, 2015 (IYL2015).

Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: a synthesis of the available evidence

An economic analysis attempting to quantify the cumulative impact Rothamsted Research has had, suggests that the value of its annual contribution to feeding the nation is in excess of £3bn a year.

Foreword to the report by the Director & Chief Executive Professor Achim Dobermann

Role of pesticides in bee decline: a review of the natural science evidence base

A “restatement” of the evidence base has been published.

Whether neonicotinoids harm bees and other insect pollinators is one of the most contentious questions that environmental policy makers have to grapple with today.  In the last ten years over 400 scientific papers have been published on this topic, some contradicting each other, making it very difficult for non-specialists to access the entire evidence base.

Agrimetrics: the first Centre for Agricultural Innovation is open for business

Ministers George Eustice and George Freeman formally launch Agrimetrics.

Today (Monday 26 October), George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment and George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences, officially launched Agrimetrics, the world’s first Big Data Centre of Excellence for the whole food system.

Scientists work to help wheat fend off Fusarium

A decade of Fusarium research.

The model plant Arabidopsis, infected by Fusarium, is used to advance understanding of how Fusarium infects wheat.  

Update on pyrethroid resistance in Cabbage Stem Flea Beetles

Rothamsted Research scientists detect significant levels of pyrethroid resistance in Cabbage Stem Flea Beetles in South East England.

Cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB), Psylliodes chrysocephala, is a major pest of winter oilseed rape (OSR) in several European countries particularly attacking young emerging plants in autumn. Up until December 2013, seedlings were protected by neonicotinoid seed treatments. An EU-imposed restriction, currently in place for these compounds when applied to OSR seed, has resulted in growers having to use the only alternative; pyrethroid sprays.

Genestack Secures Innovate UK Grant

New grant will see Genestack, in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, expanding capabilities into agri-genomics.

Genestack, the developer of a next generation enterprise platform for genomics research and development, has secured £90,000 through an Innovate UK grant.

Wheat choice has lasting effect on soil health and yield

Researchers examine the effects of growing high and low take-all building susceptible wheat on the make-up of the soil bacterial community.

Scientists investigating how to control take-all, a fungus that lives in soil and infects wheat roots to cause disease, have discovered that different varieties of wheat have distinct and lasting impacts on the health of the soil in which they are grown.