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Wheat (Triticum spp.) is the most widely grown crop globally and accounts for a fifth of humanity’s food, providing 21% of the food calories and 20% of the protein consumed by more than 4.5 billion people (FAOSTAT, 2010). Demand for wheat in the developing world is predicted to increase by 60% by 2050 and there is a very real need to deliver this increase in a sustainable manner, with careful stewardship of both natural resources (land, water) and agricultural inputs (energy, fertiliser). Nitrogen fertiliser applied to the growing wheat crop is a key determinant of grain yield and flour quality. However, Nitrogen inputs represent a major cost to the farmer as well as a significant hazard to the environment should it be mis- or over-applied.

To reduce the need for applied Nitrogen wheat breeders and farmers in the UK and India have worked hard to improve the nitrogen uptake and utilization efficiency of the wheat plants through genetic improvement programmes. However, a coordinated approach and further improvements are required, alongside developing methods for more precise fertilise application, if we are to meet the challenge of increasing wheat production for an expanding global population in a sustainable manner. To help meet this challenge INEW will deliver a joint programme of research and capacity building, linking key expertise and resources across the Indian and UK partner organisations.

Key Aim

A key aim of the joint centre is to advance our knowledge and understanding of Nitrogen use efficiency in wheat through research and the development of applied tools for wheat breeders.

INEW will initially focus on:

  • Bring together the major UK and Indian research providers with programmes on nitrogen use in wheat, to provide a unique range of genetic material, skills and research facilities.
  • Exploit these resources to carry out an integrated study of the genetic, biochemical and molecular basis for improved N use efficiency in wheat grown in the UK and India, from mechanisms of nitrogen uptake to partitioning in the grain and effects on processing quality.
  • Identify candidate genes that control key processes limiting N use efficiency in wheat grown in the UK and India.
  • Develop molecular markers for key traits and transfer these to commercial and public sector wheat breeders in the UK and India.
  • Develop improved nitrogen application strategies and deliver these to farmers as part of agronomic packages.
  • Provide training to scientists in India and the UK.
  • Provide a “legacy” of joint facilities, datasets and technologies as a basis for longer term joint research programmes.


A main focus of the joint centre is to help build capacity through the exchange and training of early career scientists and PhD students. As well as peer-to-peer exchanges three formal training courses are also planned:

  • Wheat genetics and marker development, held in Bristol and JIC
  • Quantitative genetics, association genetics and whole genome selection, run by NIAB in New Delhi or Karnal
  • High throughput phenotyping and transferrable skills, held here at Rothamsted

Further details on these courses can be found on the INEW website.


CSIA launched in the autumn of 2015 with initial funding secured from the Newton Fund, BBSRC, CAAS and Rothamsted Research. Active bids for further funding are already in place relating to all four research areas.

Further Information

For further information about INEW research or training courses, see the INEW website.


Research Council UK Project Summary

Funded as part of the BBSRC-Newton Fund Call for Virtual Joint Centres with Brazil, China and India in Agricultural Nitrogen.


For further information, please email Dr Simon Vaughan.