Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Breeding oilseed rape varieties for pollinator-friendly traits

Amounts and sugar content of nectar vary between commercial varieties of oilseed rape (OSR) produced with different breeding systems, when tested in the glasshouse.

In recent years, some beekeepers have suggested that hybrid varieties of OSR may provide inferior nectar for pollinators compared with traditional open-pollinated varieties.  Scientists at Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from the BBSRC, the University of Exeter and Newcastle University tested whether the amount and quality of nectar produced by glasshouse-grown oilseed rape plants vary between crop variety, and more fundamentally, between three conventional breeding systems used to create the varieties.

Black-grass requires a ‘three-pronged’ attack

Black-grass requires a three-pronged attack to promote and develop sustainable management solutions.

Black-grass requires a three-pronged attack to promote and develop sustainable management solutions, according to the main findings arising from an AHDB-funded workshop.

Organised by the BBSRC/AHDB Black-Grass Resistance Initiative (BGRI), the workshop united farmers, industry and researchers to help concentrate the UK’s black-grass management efforts.

Mineral vital to human health will decrease due to climate change

New model developed to understand the variation in selenium concentrations in soil finds climate is key to its global distribution.

There are many people suffering from “hidden hunger” across the world; people that have enough food to eat but have access only to food which does not contain adequate nutritional value. Micronutrients, or minerals, are an essential part of a healthy diet, gained from the soil via the crops we eat, yet many people don’t get enough of them. A new paper from Rothamsted Research has found that climate change could exacerbate this.

Rothamsted Research Celebrates £2,500 gift from the Patron's Fund

Charitable fund acknowledges the work of the charitable organisations for which Her Majesty, The Queen acts as a Patron.

Rothamsted Research is celebrating after receiving a £2,500 gift from The Patron’s Fund, the charitable fund set up to acknowledge the work of the charitable organisations for which Her Majesty, The Queen acts as a Patron, on the occasion of her 90th birthday.

Rothamsted Research is granted permission by Defra 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.

Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, submitted an application on 3rd November 2016 to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for permission to carry out GM field trials on the Rothamsted Farm between 2017 and 2019. The risk assessment was reviewed by the independent Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), and a 48-day public consultation was carried out by Defra. ACRE is satisfied that all scientific issues raised by the public with respect to this application have been addressed.

Industry joins forces to tackle global food challenges

The new partnerships were fostered by the Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum.

International agri-businesses, scientists and researchers have committed to working together to answer some of the biggest challenges facing global food security. From boosting sustainable food production in Africa to using data to drive efficiencies in UK farming, each new collaboration to be developed hopes to deliver real benefits on the ground.

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.

Pages