03 July 2015 | Online since 2003

Agri Tech East to say ancient wheat varieties and latest technology hold key to food security



23 July 2014 14:59:19|Arable,News,Shows and Events

Agri-Tech East to say ancient wheat varieties and latest technology hold key to food security


Dr Belinda Clarke of Agri-Tech East

Global wheat consumption exceeded production in six out of the last eight years. Although increasing yield to meet demand is important, improving resilience under adverse growing conditions is also vital. Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, will discuss how innovation emerging from the UK is providing farmers with new tools to boost production in a panel discussion chaired by James Townshend, Business Ambassador for Agriculture, ahead of the Commonwealth Games, 24th July 2014.

Agri-Tech East brings together farmers and growers with scientists, breeders and technologists. Dr Clarke explains that the region's tradition of agricultural innovation is being reinvigorated with the emergence of new technologies in areas as varied as plant breeding, DNA sequencing, information management and advanced engineering.

Dr Clarke explains: "Traditional wheat breeding has focused on improving yield by selecting for desirable characteristics, but this can be at the expense of other attributes such as tolerance to drought or disease. This tends to create varieties that perform best when conditions are ideal and are often dependent on high inputs of fertiliser and pest control so a new approach is required.

"The East of England in particular has considerable knowledge of plant breeding with one of the largest global collections of wheat landraces. These are local varieties of domesticated wheat that are adapted to the natural and cultural environment and are stable under adverse conditions.

"These ancient varieties could provide alternative sources of yield, quality, drought tolerance or pest and disease resistance traits for current plant breeding programmes. This will help combat climate change, improve food security and better utilise current farming inputs."

The international landrace collection was built up in the 1920s by University of Cambridge Lecturer Arthur Ernest Watkins. He encouraged staff at British consulates worldwide to collect over 1200 samples of wheat. The Germplasm Resources Unit is now housed at the John Innes Centre (JIC) on the Norwich Research Park alongside one of the most powerful genetic sequencing engines at The Genome Analysis Centre.

Other germplasm resources are available at Rothamsted Research; it has collated 150 different types (lines) of ancient wheat called Triticum monococcum to identify lines that have natural resistance to pests. Some of the best ancient wheat lines are now being crossed with modern wheat varieties using a novel breeding technique.

Dr Clarke continues "Now with new techniques, such as DNA marker assisted selection and others, we have more precise tools to help breeders to understand variation. This will allow us to re-evaluate older varieties and create crops that are naturally more resilient in the field."

Chairing the Food Security session is James Townshend, Business Ambassador for Agriculture, CEO of Velcourt Farm Management and a strong advocate of creating demonstrations of new technology so that farmers can see the innovations that may significantly improve wheat yields.

Velcourt's own R&D team has been working with JIC to investigate the use of markers to improve yield. Differences in a single "rung" of the DNA helix can impact the grain width, length and the number of spikelets.

Dr Cristobal Uauy, wheat geneticist JIC explains: "Although the differences are barely perceptible, over an entire field these changes can increase yield by roughly 5%, the equivalent of 700 loaves of bread per hectare."

Farms in the region are also being used as a test bed for new technologies such as remote sensing and imaging which can support precision agriculture. Spectral imaging measures the health of the crop and also identifies areas for selective pest control, which is particularly beneficial where there is resistance to certain herbicides.

Dr Clarke says that the valuable data, from field trials collected with drone imaging and from yield data emerging from smart combine harvesters, are among the inputs that are driving an information revolution. Recent research by law firm Taylor Vinters estimates the agricultural market for unmanned systems will be worth $30bn over the next decade with applications in precision farming, monitoring and land use inspection.

"Agricultural management is data rich and automating the collection and management of data will greatly assist on-farm decision-making, " says Dr Clarke. "We are seeing companies from the Cambridge cluster currently working in other industry sectors, looking with interest at agri-tech and seeing potential for applying their technology to collating, visualising and interpreting this complex data. We anticipate that the market for agri-informatics will be a major growth area."

Agri-tech has been identified as one of the ways in which the world can increase food production sustainably. Dr Clarke believes that the east of England is in a prime position to deliver it.

Download




Comments


No comments posted yet. Be the first to post a comment

To post comment without approval login or register

Display name

Please enter your name

Email (optional)
Comment

Please enter your comment

Post Comment

Your comment submitted successfully.Please wait for admin approval.

Some error on your process.Please try one more time.



Jobs


Start Date: 13 June 2015
Versatile, experienced, responsible tractor driver / general farm worker - required for a permanent position with farmer / contractor. North Yorkshire

We are a 400 ac family farm also growing 300 ac potatoes, 350ac arable contracting, and running a fleet of HGV...


Start Date: 3 July 2015
M490: FARMING DIRECTOR

Our client has considerable agricultural interests and is seeking a Farming Director. This is a key senior role which is both...


Start Date: 18 June 2015
Tractor driver/ General Farm Worker for Harvest in Lincolnshire.  

We have 2 jobs on the 5000 ac farm in Lincolnshire, The first is to drive a large Fendt tractor jobs will include plough...


Start Date: 3 July 2015
A402: Account Manager - Central Southern Region

An experienced Account Manager is sought by a leading and trusted European parts supplier to cover the Central Southern regio...


Start Date: 2 July 2015
Love Pigs? Job in Cambridgeshire for a pig man 3,000 indoor pigs.

3,000 indoor pigs need to be looked after. You will be involved in all areas of the farm but your main task will be looking a...





Top stories you may have missed
5 June 2015 | Cattle

A strong pound and increased red meat imports coupled with a plentiful dome...


5 June 2015 | Arable

Depression is affecting Wales' farming industry and there is a need to use ...


5 June 2015 | Arable

With just one week to go before the final judging and announcement of the w...


5 June 2015 | Finance

A rural law expert has highlighted the importance of good succession planni...


5 June 2015 | Farmshops

A south Yorkshire dairy farming family is pulling out all the stops to prom...


4 June 2015 | Finance

Predicting what is going to happen to wheat prices is a challenge, but in s...


4 June 2015 | Agri Safety

A Lancashire based livestock theft prevention scheme is aiming to go nation...


4 June 2015 | News

A female farmer has been recognised by the farming and conservation industr...


4 June 2015 | Finance

The new Conservative government appears to be preparing to implement cuts f...


4 June 2015 | Arable

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will have mobile support units at the follo...