The UK has some of the most efficient farming systems in the world but is experiencing stagnating yields and continued problems with reactive nitrogen polluting air and water. China desperately needs increasing food production but this must be achieved in accordance with the Government’s new “zero increase” policy, referring to chemical inputs, especially fertiliser.

The UK-China Virtual Joint Centre for Improved Nitrogen Agronomy (CINAg) aims to increase the adoption of sustainable nitrogen management practices in China and the UK through: the development of novel indicators of nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) based on metrics of soil health and quality (an improved fundamental understanding of N cycling); the use of these indicators and other emerging knowledge and tools to test practices and systems leading to sustainable intensification (e.g. innovative fertilisers, novel sensors, crop varieties, manure management); the translation of these developments to farmers (e.g. through guidance documents, decision support systems, phone apps).

The Centre is linked to other Virtual Joint Centres on agricultural nitrogen in Brazil, China and India (including N-Circle which is led by the University of Aberdeen and The Indo-UK Centre for the Improvement of Nitrogen use Efficiency in Wheat (INEW) which is led by Rothamsted) and with other collaborative research countries across the world. The Centre also contributes to the newly-created, Newton-funded Centre for the Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture (CSIA) led by Rothamsted and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS).


Through this Virtual Joint Centre in Nitrogen Agronomy the partners aim to:

  1. Carry out joint research projects, in particular using novel 'Farm Platforms' that will allow us to develop economically and environmentally sustainable farm systems through research at the farm level.
  2. Exchange staff and students for laboratory and field work, with a strong focus on UK-to-China movements and for periods of one to three months.
  3. Hold joint conferences and meetings, with public participation.
  4. Share data management, publications and practical work with farmers in China and the UK.
  5. We will develop novel metagenomic-based indicators of N use efficiency and soil quality, use these indicators, and other emerging knowledge, to test and develop farm systems that permit the sustainable intensification of (especially Chinese) agriculture, and take these developments to Chinese farmers. We will achieve this through four Work Packages: improved fundamental understanding of N cycling; harnessing novel N technologies; improved agronomic practices; predictive capacity and knowledge exchange.


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

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 Tom Misselbrook.

Further information