A new £1.5 million crop research centre has opened which will see researchers use gene-editing technology to improve the resilience and sustainability of crops.
Opening at the University of Warwick, the Elizabeth Creak Horticultural Technology Centre (ECHTC) will use the technique to improve UK crop production.
According to the university, the centre seeks to address issues relating to disease resistance, crop yields, adaptability to climate change and nutritional value in horticultural plants.
The research also aims to help with the key global challenges of climate change and feeding the world’s population.
Future scientists in vegetable tissue culture and gene editing techniques will also be trained, with Jim Brewster Scholarships awarded to PhD students working in the area of crop science.
Gene editing is a process by which scientists can make small modifications to existing genes which can confer valuable traits in plants, such as disease resistance or enhanced drought tolerance.
The technique can shorten the long process of traditional plant breeding where varieties are crossed over many generations to achieve the same goal.
It comes as the government is seeking to change the rules relating to gene editing to cut red tape for crop trials and make research and development easier.
Murray Grant, the Elizabeth Creak Chair in food security at the University of Warwick, said there was a 'pressing need' to help solve global food problems.
“Researchers at the centre will be applying precision genetic editing approaches to key UK horticulture crops to improve disease resistance, enhance nutritional value and increase resilience to climate change.
"Aside from increased yields, there are significant environmental benefits to be gained by growing crops with reduced needs for pesticides and water.”