Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Scientists uncover hidden wheat treasures

New resource will greatly accelerate scientific discovery and the rate of wheat improvement

A team of scientists in the UK and USA have generated a new groundbreaking resource of ten million mutations in bread and pasta wheat varieties.

Researchers and breeders can search the public wheat database online to identify changes in their genes of interest and request seeds to improve the nutrition and production of wheat worldwide. They anticipate this will speed up the development of the wheat crop with highly sought-after traits, including disease resistance and increased yield.

Global innovators join forces to answer agri-food challenges

Boosting agricultural production in Africa, using data to drive efficiencies in UK farming, and improving understanding of the plant microbiome are three key issues being addressed at a major conference next week.

The Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum (ROIF), which will be held from 18-20 January, is attracting industry leaders from around the world to try and provide solutions to global food challenges. “It’s clear from the range of pre-competitive pitches we’ve received that the breadth of topics the forum will cover will be extremely broad,” says Chris Dunkley, chief executive of Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise.

Mass insect migrations in UK skies

For the first time, scientists have measured the movements of high-flying insects in the skies over southern England – and found that about 3.5 trillion migrate over the region every year.

Scientists recorded movement above radar sites in southern England and found large seasonal differences, with mass migrations of insects generally going northwards in spring and southwards in autumn. Until now, radar studies have measured migrations of relatively few nocturnal species of agricultural pests, and no study previously examined the vast numbers of daytime migrants.

New study shows wheat crop yield can be increased by up to 20 per cent using new chemical technology, providing a solution to global food insecurity

The application, based on controlling naturally-occurring sugars, also increases crop resilience to drought

UK scientists have created a synthetic molecule that when applied to crops, has been shown to increase the size and starch content of wheat grains in the lab by up to 20 per cent. The new plant application, developed by Rothamsted Research and Oxford University, could help to solve the issue of increasing food insecurity across the globe; 795 million people are undernourished1 and this year’s El Nino2 has shown how vulnerable many countries are to climate-induced drought.

The humble willow basket to be remembered at First World War event

Celebrate the importance of the humble willow basket during the First World War, with the Everyday Day Lives in War Centre and Rothamsted Research, on Saturday 12th November 2016.

The University of Hertfordshire’s Everyday Day Lives in War Centre and Rothamsted Research are holding a free event to celebrate the importance of the humble willow basket during the First World War on Saturday 12th November 2016.

Rothamsted Research submits application to Defra for permission to carry out field trial with GM wheat plants

The trial will test whether GM wheat plants are able to carry out photosynthesis more efficiently in the field and whether this trait could result in a higher yielding crop. A public consultation has begun.

Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, submitted an application on 3rd November 2016 to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for permission to carry out GM field trials on the Rothamsted Farm in 2017 and 2018. Scientists at Rothamsted Research, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Essex and Lancaster University, have developed wheat plants that can carry out photosynthesis more efficiently i.e. convert light energy into plant biomass more efficiently. This trait has the potential to result in higher yielding plants.

Learning from the “healthy” to protect the “infected”

A novel mechanism has been identified which likely contributes to resistance against Septoria leaf blotch in plant species normally non-infected with the disease, providing the clues necessary to develop control methods in wheat.

Septoria leaf blotch is a highly damaging disease of wheat and scientists are looking for ways to manage it more effectively. Most studies have looked directly at the interaction between wheat and Septoria but, in a novel approach, scientists at Rothamsted Research, who are strategically funded by the BBSRC, have instead looked at how plant species that do not get infected by Septoria achieve resistance. Most plants are resistant to the majority of microbes, a phenomenon known as non-host resistance, or NHR.

State of Nature report: views from Rothamsted Research

Rothamsted Research scientists comment on the 2016 State of Nature report.

The ‘State of Nature 2016’ report on trends in UK wildlife between 1970 and 2013 concluded that, across all taxa, 56% of species have declined in this period in all major habitats except urban and marine environments.

Despite the fact that a greater proportion of species associated with grassland, heath and coastal habitats declined over this period than farmland species, Mark Eaton (a lead author of the report from the RSPB) chose to focus in media interviews on agricultural intensification as the main driver of these post-war losses of UK biodiversity. This conclusion was based on a review of the literature and expert opinion on the drivers of population change of individual species using data from the previous State of Nature report published in 2013.

Pupils take on farming challenge

Teams of school pupils pitch their ideas to reduce slug damage to crops after meeting scientists at Rothamsted Research and visiting a local farm.

As the new school year begins, 17 of the pupils returning to Sir John Lawes School in Harpenden may have an extra boost, having taken part in a leadership project designed to develop their confidence, teamwork and presentation skills.

Institute Director receives Honorary Doctorate from University of Hertfordshire

Professor Achim Dobermann, Director and CEO of Rothamsted Research, honoured in ceremony at St Albans Cathedral.

The University of Hertfordshire has awarded Professor Achim Doberman with an Honorary Doctorate of Science for his contributions to food security and sustainability. The award was presented on Friday 9th September. Professor Dobermann is an internationally recognised authority on science and technology for food security and sustainable management of cereal crops, having authored or co-authored over 250 scientific papers and several books. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America.

Rothamsted Research launches Annual Review

The latest Annual Review showcases highlights from a busy year spent delivering excellent science, establishing collaborations and re-defining our long-term vision and strategic priorities.

The Annual Review 2015/2016 was launched today, celebrating some of the research highlights and accomplishments of staff at Rothamsted Research over the past year. The printed Annual Review is accompanied by a digital version and video available on the Rothamsted Research website.

Seek and you shall find: bees remain excellent searchers even when sick

Scientists have found that honeybees exhibit a characteristic flight pattern to explore their surroundings, even when affected by disease.

Honeybees learn the position of landmarks around their hive as they explore, which helps them find their way to rewarding flower patches and home again. When they first venture outside the hive, or when a beekeeper moves them to a new location, honeybees perform ‘orientation flights’ to explore and to identify landmarks efficiently.

Better off alone: biodiversity among soil microbes can be bad news for crops

Wheat suffers yield losses in soils with high bacterial diversity.

A recent study found that decreased biodiversity of Pseudomonas, a genus of soil bacteria, is associated with a reduced severity of the fungal disease ‘take-all’ in second year wheat. The work revealed that disease incidence was linked to the wheat variety grown in the first year, and that this also had a profound effect on Pseudomonas species community structure. Now researchers have found that the useful activity of Pseudomonas strains that suppress take-all disease is severely reduced when additional Pseudomonas strains are present.

Twenty years of monitoring in the UK reveals trend for wetter summers, less acidic soils and increasing plant biodiversity

The UK Environmental Change Network, of which Rothamsted Research is a founding member, releases a special issue of the journal Ecological Indicators to mark the milestone.

The UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) recently marked the first 20 years of monitoring at its terrestrial sites. The ECN was launched in 1992 to monitor UK environmental change over time, following growing concerns about biodiversity loss, climate change and widespread air and water pollution. Since then, it has recorded data continuously, at a range of terrestrial and freshwater sites, on environmental and ecological parameters.

Researcher gets on soapbox to explain blackgrass threat

Taking part in a recent 'Soapbox Science' event, Laura Crook from the Weed Ecology group at Rothamsted Research talks with the public about work on herbicide resistant blackgrass.

Soapbox Science is a platform for promoting women and the science that they do. From the Weed Ecology group at Rothamsted Research, technician Laura Crook took part in an event at Milton Keynes shopping centre.

Major pathogen of barley decoded: new avenues for control

The fungus that causes Ramularia leaf spot in barley is the latest organism to have its genome sequenced and investigated.

Since the late 1990s, UK farmers growing barley have seen the yields and quality of their harvests hurt by an emerging disease called Ramularia leaf spot. The disease is caused by the pathogenic fungus Ramularia collo-cygni. Now a team of scientists studying this fungus have sequenced and explored its genome.

The best defence: developing aphid-resistant wheat for smallholder farmers in southern Africa

A partnership between wheat scientists at Rothamsted Research and Seed Co Ltd, Africa’s largest seed company, is attempting to breed wheat resistant to two aphid species.

Smallholder farmers growing wheat crops in southern Africa face losing up to half of their wheat yields to aphids. Pesticides that could prevent such attacks are often too expensive, but scientists are screening wheat lines to look for a new, cheaper way to protect African wheat from aphids. The scientists hope to identify resistance to two major aphid pests and breed the trait into wheat suitable for African climates.

Radar tracking reveals the ‘life stories’ of bumble bees

Scientists have tracked the flight paths of bumble bees throughout their entire lives to find out how they explore their environment and search for food.

Scientists have tracked the flight paths of a group of bumble bees throughout their entire lives in what is thought to be the first lifetime tracking study of any animal in such detail. The new study used a radar to show how individual bees explore their environment and search for food. The findings showed that individual bumble bees differ greatly in the way they fly around the landscape when foraging for nectar and pollen.

'We need an evidence-based strategy for agricultural innovation to protect our harvests'

Prof. Toby Bruce describes current crop protection challenges and the CROPROTECT network he has developed.

UK farmers are currently facing a huge problem which undermines the viability of their businesses and their economic competitiveness: the pests, weeds and diseases that attack their crops are becoming pesticide-resistant. Our farmers don’t have enough tools in the toolkit to stop their harvests from being destroyed. Developing sustainable crop protection was already a major issue for the industry, but now with uncertainties regarding farm incomes after Brexit it is all the more critical.

Inside knowledge - how do bacteria living within wheat plants affect their hosts?

Scientists at Rothamsted Research develop technique to study the effects of beneficial bacteria that live inside wheat plants.

Most plants have harmless bacteria living inside their tissues, known as ‘endophytes’, which can benefit plants by providing nutrients and suppressing diseases.  Scientists have developed a new technique to grow wheat plants without any endophytes, allowing them to introduce different bacterial species into them, which will reveal more about this interaction. The researchers hope that the method could give insights enabling the production of cereal plants with increased yields.

Rothamsted Research comment on the result of the EU referendum

Rothamsted Research, established in 1843, has been delivering knowledge and innovation that benefit agriculture globally. The international impact of Rothamsted Research is the result of the cumulative efforts of an international community of scientists and institute employees.  Almost a quarter of staff members, visiting workers and PhD students currently come from European Union countries.

Rothamsted Research North Wyke will be at the Livestock Event 2016

Find out about the cutting edge North Wyke Farm Platform facility and discuss the latest findings with scientists from Rothamsted Research.

Scientists from Rothamsted Research North Wyke are exhibiting this year at the Livestock Event on 6-7th July at the Birmingham NEC. The North Wyke stand, FF364, in the Field Forage exhibition is entitled “How the North Wyke Farm Platform is identifying sustainable solutions for grassland livestock production”.

‘Illuminating Life: Personal Encounters’ photo-story competition begins

Rothamsted Research launches contest for children and young adults, on the theme of agricultural landscapes and practices.

Rothamsted Research is supporting and encouraging the engagement of children and young adults with agriculture. To this end, Rothamsted Research is delighted to announce that the ‘Illuminating Life: Personal Encounters’ photo-story competition is back for its second year. Rothamsted Research has been advancing agriculture by providing scientific knowledge and innovation for over 170 years, and has selected agricultural landscapes and practices as the theme of this year’s contest.

Exceptionally high numbers of diamondback moths are arriving in the UK

This is a special announcement regarding the diamondback moth and covers observations up until the 10th June 2016. Diamondback moths are an important migratory pest of brassicas, causing feeding and cosmetic damage that can lead to severe losses in cruciferous crops. The diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is a species often described a 'super-pest' because they have been found to be resistant to most insecticides, including pyrethroids and diamide.

How do soil bacteria affect agriculture and global climate?

Newly sequenced genomes of soil bacteria in the group Bradyrhizobium help researchers to understand its effects beyond soil.

Soils are teeming with bacteria whose effects we are just beginning to understand. One of the most abundant and active groups of bacteria in soils is called Bradyrhizobium. For the first time from European soils, scientists have sequenced the genome of Bradyrhizobium, giving a glimpse into their activity and revealing differences with strains from other parts of the world.

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