The International Barley Hub Field Centre at the James Hutton Institute has officially opened to safeguard and improve barley crop production in Scotland.
The £62 million International Barley Hub (IBH) marks a major milestone in establishing Scotland as a leader in global food security and crop resilience.
Barley is the most predominant crop grown in Scotland, and supports 40,000 jobs largely due to its key role in the world-renowned Scottish whisky industry.
Demand for the crop has grown in recent years, due to £2bn of investment in national distillery infrastructure, growth in the craft beer sector and increased whisky sales.
However, research from the James Hutton Institute has found it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet this demand, due to adverse weather conditions reducing barley yields, changes in pesticide bans and crop management challenges.
The IBH will promote scientific discovery and innovation to tackle these issues, as well as piloting new technologies for crop management, such as precision agriculture sensors and drones.
Investment in the IBH is also expected to generate over £105m benefit to the UK over the next 30 years, nearly £60m of which will be in Scotland.
It will also generate 1,281 full-time jobs in Scotland, increasing to 1,838 FTE jobs in the UK after 10 years.
Speaking of the opening UK government Minister for Scotland, Malcolm Offord said: "The UK government is proud to invest £20m in the International Barley Hub at the James Hutton Institute.
"The project will not only bring great benefits to our fantastic food and drink industry, it will also directly benefit our economy, creating jobs and helping us achieve long-term growth.
“The wonderful work that will be undertaken here at the IBH is testament to the vast research and development skills that we have in abundance here and how they can be used to boost prosperity for the good of the local area, for Scotland and for the whole of the UK.”
Professor Colin Campbell, chief executive at James Hutton Institute, said securing the resilience of barley was 'critical' to the future of global food and drink chains, particularly for the whisky industry.
"The opening of the International Barley Hub Field Station today which marks another step in this hugely important development, not just for the Institute but for the local area and Scotland itself”.