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Crop science

Background

Food security in the context of this priority covers the sustainable production of sufficient, safe, nutritious and affordable food to supply the world's growing population. The overall BBSRC food security priority aims to encourage research that will enhance UK and/or global food security, by providing knowledge and evidence that will enable food producers and processors, retailers, consumers and governments to respond to and manage the challenges facing the UK food system, and related global issues including those confronting the developing world.

Tackling the food security challenge will require multifaceted and cross-disciplinary approaches. Multidisciplinary approaches are strongly encouraged under this priority, including those that draw on expertise from across the biosciences and, where appropriate (and provided the majority of the work falls within BBSRC's remit), proposals at the interfaces with other Research Councils. These might include collaborations between biologists and physical, environmental, medical or social scientists. Integration of the latest bioscience and modelling techniques is encouraged at all scales from molecules and cells to agricultural systems and landscapes.

Aim

The aim of the crop science priority is to support research underpinning the effective and sustainable exploitation of cultivated plants, and the translation of basic science to enable its application in agricultural crops and systems. As well as research relevant to UK agriculture, projects that would benefit developing countries are also encouraged. Crops grown for food and feed (including pastures) are included in this priority.

Plant science should be focused on challenges relevant to food production such as:

  • enhancing crop productivity and quality, with optimised efficiency of resource use (water, energy, chemical inputs)
  • enhanced nutritional composition; increasing sustainability of crop production, preserving biodiversity and other ecosystem services (e.g. by exploring the potential for nitrogen fixation and improved efficiency of photosynthesis)
  • understanding and exploiting genomics and the genetic diversity of plants (including crop breeding)

Research is needed on the important biotic and abiotic factors that affect crop performance, including pests, pathogens and weeds and the role of beneficial micro-organisms, and adverse environmental conditions (e.g. drought, high temperatures, salinity and flooding). Research on novel crop protection approaches, including innovations to respond to changing regulations, are also encouraged.

Underpinning research not directly relevant to food security (e.g. studies of "model" plants independent of work on related crops, or work on non-food crops) is excluded from this priority.

Tackling the food security challenge will require cross-disciplinary approaches which may span a number of the challenges under the broader food security priority. BBSRC would particularly welcome applications that address the food security priority in a broader context and would recommend applicants to read all five strategic priorities in the food security area before applying.

Outputs and impacts

The translation of research outputs into practical use and application by consumers, the agriculture and food industries, policy makers and non-governmental organisations will be critically important in meeting the future challenges. Impacts on training and the UK skills base should be considered. Ultimately the key output from this priority will be research underpinning a secure global supply of safe and healthy food.

Outputs which minimise crop losses to pests and disease and increase resilience to environmental stresses will be key to maintaining or increasing crop yields. In addition enhanced resource use efficiency and alternatives to chemical inputs will improve the economic resilience of the farming system. The theoretical maximum crop yields have not yet been reached in practice and exploiting the potential for greater yields will benefit both the industry and consumers.

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