The government has renewed its support for wheat innovation with a fully funded award for another five years of research and development by the Wheat Genetic Improvement Network.

  • 28
  • FEB
  • 2018

Wheat innovators are jubilant today after hearing that they have received a new round of funding for a fourth phase of the Wheat Genetic Improvement Network. WGIN brings together researchers, breeders and now farmers to devise better varieties of the UK’s top cereal crop.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is providing £1.7 million for a 5-year programme that extends WGIN, founded in 2003, to at least 2023. The new contract, due to be signed in March, is being backdated to the beginning of this month and dovetails with the running down of the third phase.

“WGIN-4 has been fully accepted by Defra, with 1.5% more funding than WGIN-3” says Kim Hammond-Kosack, a cereals specialist at Rothamsted Research and WGIN’s leader and co-founder. “This is all exceptionally good news. Let’s hope years 15 to 20 of WGIN go as well as the first 15 years.”

For the first time, the network’s new contract includes an alliance with the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) with the aim of strengthening direct links to farmers.

Defra supports three other genetic improvement networks: for oil seed rape (OREGIN) in which Rothamsted is also a partner; for brassicas, leafy salads, onions and carrots (VeGIN); and for pulses (PCGIN). “The plan going forward is for the four GINS to be far more interconnected,” says Hammond-Kosack. One of Defra’s senior crop scientists, Andy Cuthbertson, has been appointed to start this new activity.

WGIN is led by Rothamsted and embraces a diverse range of academic scientists, industry-based breeders, researchers, development specialists and agricultural advisers as its stakeholders, which now also include AHDB.

“While industry breeding programmes tend to focus on introducing new crop varieties with greater yields and improved quality, WGIN focuses on new traits with characteristics that should improve crop resilience and sustainability,” says Hammond-Kosack.

“We explore such factors as improved responses to abiotic and biotic stress, efficiencies in the use of nutrients and canopy architecture,” she adds.

In November last year, WGIN successfully staged its 15th annual stakeholders meeting at Rothamsted, which also introduced a new five-year programme, Designing Future Wheat, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
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About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.