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Grant of £885,000 to fund important food crop research

A Physicist at the University of Exeter has received a substantial grant to help improve the sustainability of commercially valuable crops.

Professor Julian Moger has received a share of the £885, 781 grant to fund pioneering research into how to improve the uniformity and resilience in Brassica seeds – which include cabbages and mustard plants.

The research will develop new varieties of Brassica seeds that are not affected by the effects of adverse temperature conditions during the early stages of production.

The crucial research is one of six projects nationwide that have received more than £4 million in total from The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in collaboration with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

The grant will see Professor Moger work in collaboration with experts from the John Innes Centre, which conducts independent research in plant and microbial science.

Professor Moger, Associate Professor of Biophotonics at the University of Exeter, said: “I am really excited by this award since it provides me with an opportunity to develop a new analytical tool that could have a significant impact on society and the environment”.

Professor Moger will apply cutting-edge laser imaging techniques that he has developed at the University of Exeter to objectively monitor the uptake of important growth chemicals into seeds. This is the first time that this technology has been applied in this area and it could lead to new understanding of the physical properties of the seed coat and the development of new agrochemical seed coatings with enhanced efficacy.

Professor Moger added: “Interdisciplinary research is one of Exeter key strengths, and we are currently world-leading in the development and application of next-generation optical imaging in plant biology”.

The six-project funding is the second round of awards from the Horticulture and Potato Initiative (HAPI), which was developed by BBSRC together with NERC and the Scottish Government to support high quality, industrially relevant research projects on potato and edible horticulture crops.

HAPI will help the horticulture and potato supply chains enhance their competitiveness and resilience to climate change, increase plant resistance to disease and environmental change, and develop more efficient ways of farming.

This will lead to economic, social and environmental benefits, such as improved resilience to climate change and better food security.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills said:“Working with industrial partners, we have identified key areas where research is necessary to help address the challenges of a sustainable food supply. These projects research will help to deliver improved yields, and reduce waste, in turn benefitting both producers and consumers in the UK and worldwide.”

Date: 5 June 2015

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