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Breakthrough Technologies to Advance Crop Breeding

Copyright: Pablo_K/iStock/Thinkstock

Call status: Closed
Full application (invite only) deadline: July 2018 (TBC)


The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have established a joint funding opportunity to support the development of breakthrough technologies that will enable significant advances in crop breeding. This opportunity aims to make high impact changes in the ability to translate basic knowledge of plant genomics to practical outcomes in crops of economic importance to the participating countries.


This NSF-BIO, USDA-NIFA and BBSRC joint activity is soliciting Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) proposals to support development of breakthrough ideas and technologies to speed the development for new crop varieties. There remain significant bottlenecks to improving crop varieties even if new traits or natural variants are identified; such as producing hybrids, understanding recombination, and epigenetic inheritance as examples. Translation of basic knowledge to practical outcomes can be accelerated by key modern technologies that exploit genomics rapidly and effectively. This EAGER opportunity invites proposals to overcome these barriers to crop breeding in highly innovative and transformative ways. Investigators considering this opportunity should articulate how the enabling technologies would be used to improve crop breeding.

Scientific scope

Areas of research that await breakthrough advances and are appropriate for this EAGER opportunity include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Advancing genome editing technology to generate new phenotypes for greater genetic gain
  • Achieving reliable and high throughput production of doubled haploids from genotypes that are currently recalcitrant to chromosome doubling to accelerate the breeding process in cereals and other crops
  • Controlling and understanding meiotic recombination to tap into inaccessible genetic resources in areas of low recombination and enabling whole genome manipulation
  • Modifying epigenetic inheritance to facilitate phenotypic changes related to environmental responses
  • Understanding the mechanistic basis of heterosis, thereby generating and exploiting hybrid vigour for crop improvement.

For this EAGER opportunity, emphasis should be on developing enabling technologies that will impact crops or model crop systems. Projects that focus solely on sequencing will not be considered. Funded projects relevant to the goals of the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) will be invited to become IWYP Aligned Projects. Proposed studies should be potentially transformative and must be considered "high-risk, high-payoff" to achieve the goal of making technological breakthroughs to promote crop breeding.


Studies should be compatible with the budget ($300,000 for US components and £200,000 for UK components) and time limits (two years) of the EAGER funding mechanism. Applications from the UK must be in collaboration with a US investigator.

Standard BBSRC eligibility criteria, as described in section three of our grants guide, will be applied to the UK component of applications submitted to this call. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Research Council Institutes (RCIs) that are normally eligible to apply for research grants are eligible to apply to this call. Applications with non-eligible UK partners will not be considered for funding.

The UK component of applications should be costed on the basis of full economic costs (fEC). If the grant is awarded, BBSRC will provide funding on the basis of 80% of fEC. UK components of applications are limited to one UK Principal Investigator and are limited to £200,000 for two years (80% fEC amount). UK Principal Investigators may only be involved in one application each.

Up to £2.5 million is available from BBSRC to support the UK components of applications.

How to apply

This call is administered by NSF-BIO. For more information and how to apply please visit the NSF website.


Stage Date
Deadline for submission of two-page outlines (pitches) to NSF 14 March 2018, 17:00 Eastern Standard Time (22:00 GMT)
Estimated invitation to submit full proposals May 2018 (TBC)
Estimated deadline for full proposals July 2018 (TBC)

Related calls: agriculture collaboration crops genetics innovation partnerships plants research technologies