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UK-India Newton-Bhabha Fund joint call on pulses and oilseeds

Copyright: panda3800 and bdspn, iStock

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 19 July 2017 - 24 October 2017


BBSRC and the government of India’s Department of Biotechnology wish to encourage multi-institutional collaborative applications between UK and Indian researchers to undertake high quality three-year projects aimed at increasing the productivity, resilience, sustainability and quality of pulses or oilseeds grown for food or feed in India. The call aims to use genomic approaches to accelerate varietal improvement by understanding and exploiting traits to enhance yield potential, increase tolerance to climatic stresses or poor-quality soils, or counter pests or diseases. The funders will support the development and exploitation of new genomic and associated bioinformatic resources, but existing resources should also be used where relevant, particularly for comparative studies.


BBSRC and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) announce a call for research into pulses and oilseeds, supported by the Newton-Bhabha Fund and the government of India.

Pulses and oilseeds are important crops in India and the UK. Pulses are relatively under-used crops in the UK, but are a major source of dietary protein in India. Oilseeds are grown in India and the UK, and are valuable as a source of oil for a variety of uses, as well as being useful as a source of animal feed. This call seeks collaborative projects to develop and exploit genomic and bioinformatic resources to aid the development of improved varieties of these crops for India. Institutions with diverse expertise should work together on a common objective to develop improved varieties of a target crop. These projects will strengthen scientific collaboration between the UK and India and bring together research communities with a wide range of expertise to work on common goals relevant to Indian agriculture.

Information on this page complements our grants guide which should be read alongside it.

Applications are invited for multi-institutional collaborative research projects involving scientists in the UK and India, of up to three years in duration. Individual researchers may be involved in multiple proposals.

Up to £3.5 million is available from BBSRC to support the UK components of this research and this is matched by DBT’s support for the Indian components. It is expected that projects funded through this initiative will bring together multiple UK and Indian research groups. Industrial partners can be involved in the research as project partners but are not eligible to receive funding from BBSRC.

Scientific scope

Pulses and oilseeds are important crops in India and the UK, and this call seeks collaborative applications to develop and use genomic and bioinformatic resources to aid the development of improved varieties.

The funders aim to support innovative basic, strategic or applied research that will enable the production of these crops to be enhanced by addressing issues such as ability to withstand extremes of environmental conditions, resilience to pests or diseases, or stability of yield.

Pulses and oilseeds are important crops in India, but production of both falls short of demand and substantial quantities are imported each year. The availability of additional land to grow these crops in India is limited, so increased production will need to come from increasing yield and reducing losses.


Pulses are important but often overlooked crops. They are a significant source of protein for large parts of the world’s population, as well as being a source of other nutrients, and having other health benefits. They are also capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen, thus reducing the need for expensive nitrogenous fertilisers and improving the nitrogen content of soils where intercropping is practised.

India is the world’s largest producer of pulses, but still needs to import considerable amounts of these crops every year. Pulse production per hectare in India is considerably lower than that achieved in other parts of the world, yet pulses form a significant part of the diet of large numbers of people in India, providing them with their major source of protein. Pulses and pulse crop residues are also major sources of high quality livestock feed in India.

Pulse crops in India are generally grown by resource-poor farmers in poor fertility soils which are not irrigated adequately. Losses due to abiotic stresses such as drought and heat can result in up to 50% reduction in seed yield from the crops. High levels of salinity and alkalinity in some soils exacerbate this problem.

In addition, pulse crops are highly susceptible to pests and diseases. Pod borers such as Helicoverpa armigera affect many types of pulse crops and can cause crop losses of more than 20%. Fungal diseases are also a serious problem. Treatment with pesticides and fungicides can be prohibitively expensive, and resistance to these chemicals is an emerging problem.

The genetic yield potential of Indian pulses is not fully exploited. Genome sequences are available for chickpea, pigeon pea and soya bean, but genomic resources for other pulse crops are less well-developed and would benefit from further research. Genotyping of other pulse crops would aid identification of genes and markers which could be used in the development of improved varieties. Accompanying bioinformatic resources are also required.

The crops covered by this call include all edible pulse crops grown in India, but with a focus on those which have received little financial investment in the past. Genome sequences are available for soya bean, chickpea and pigeon pea, so development of genetic and genomic resources for other pulses would enable researchers and plant breeders to develop higher-yielding varieties of these under-researched pulses, better able to withstand environmental stresses, pests and diseases, as well as varieties with improved nutritional properties, for example increased protein content.


Oils derived from plants are important in India, primarily for use in food, but also as fuel, and raw material in manufacturing. The main oilseeds grown in India are groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.), sesame (Sesamum indicum), rapeseed/mustard (Brassica juncea), linseed (Linum usitatissimum) and castor seed (Ricinus communis). However, India is a net importer of oilseeds and needs research to improve the yields of its crops in order to reduce its reliance on imports. The main oilseed crop grown in the UK is oilseed rape (Brassica napus).

Most of the oilseeds grown in India are largely used to produce edible or cooking oils, and can be a major source of calories in some diets. Some oils are produced for industrial application. The seedcake is generally a valuable co-product, being used as feed for cattle and other livestock.

Production of oilseeds in India does not meet demand and seeds need to be imported. As with pulses, additional land for cultivation in India is not available, and yields of these crops from existing land need to be increased. This can be through resistance to the major diseases of oilseeds (such as downy mildew, powdery mildew, Alternaria, Sclerotina and Phytophthoras), and pests such as caterpillars, beetles, aphids (and associated viral diseases), leaf hoppers and leaf miners.

In addition to biotic stresses, abiotic factors can also cause problems. Oilseeds grown in India are largely rain-irrigated and drought can be a limiting factor in their growth. Heat stress also limits the yields of these crops.

The majority of genomic research so far has focussed on oilseed rape and rapeseed/mustard, and genome sequences and other resources are available for these Brassica crops. Genomic resources for other Indian oilseed crops have received less funding and are not as well-developed. Further development of existing Brassica resources as well as resources for other oilseeds would underpin research to identify and map genes conferring resistance to biotic or abiotic stresses, as well as genes associated with improved seed properties.


A UK networking meeting for the Pulses and Oilseeds Research Initiative was held on 30 June 2017 in London.

Collaborative research projects

BBSRC and DBT seek to bring research groups in the UK and India together to build on their combined strengths and work on projects aimed at increasing productivity of these crops in India.

Projects should build new links or strengthen existing links between India and the UK, and demonstrate how research in the two countries would be integrated. The output from the project should be the delivery of exciting new research capable of leading to increased pulse or oilseed production in India, and decreased reliance on imports of these crops from other countries. In addition, research collaborations between the two countries should be strengthened as a result of the projects.

Please note that the funding agencies will not be able to assist applicants in identifying potential collaborators for this call.

Newton Fund and ODA compliance

This call forms part of BBSRC’s Newton Fund activities and therefore requires projects to address Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) objectives alongside their scientific aims.

The Newton Fund was set up by the UK government in 2014 to build research and innovation partnerships with 16 partner countries to support their economic development and welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. The total budgeted UK investment for the Newton Fund is £735 million from 2014 to 2021, and partner countries provide matched resources within the Fund.

The Fund forms part of the UK’s ODA commitment which is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). ODA funded activity focuses on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee list. Newton Fund countries represent a sub-set of this list.

More information can be found on the Newton Fund website and RCUK guidance on ODA compliance.


UK participants - Standard BBSRC managed mode eligibility conditions apply to this call. All UK applicants must be eligible to receive research funding from BBSRC as Principal/Co-Investigator; see our grants guide.

Indian participants - Applicants should ensure that Indian participants fulfil the eligibility requirements for DBT funding. For this call, DBT will fund eligible researchers in Indian universities and eligible autonomous institutions, institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and the CGIAR’s International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. Indian applicants should confirm their eligibility to apply with Dr Sanjay Kalia at DBT:

Principal Investigators are responsible for ensuring that they, and any Co-Investigators included on the application, are eligible. Applications involving any ineligible applicants (UK or India) will result in the whole application being rejected.

The following BBSRC schemes will not apply to this call: New Investigator; Industrial Partnership Awards and Industrial LINK. BBSRC will not fund studentships as part of this call.

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

The lead UK Principal Investigator should submit a single joint application to BBSRC on behalf of all participants using the Je-S system.

Applications may involve researchers from multiple eligible UK institutions, but should be submitted as a single Je-S application submitted by the organisation of the lead UK Principal Investigator. If successful, the lead organisation would be the recipient of the UK component of the award, and would be responsible for managing and distributing funds to other participating UK institutions in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award. Funding for the Indian component of the collaboration will be paid by DBT to the Indian partner institution(s).

The deadline for applications is 24 October 2017, 16:00 BST/15:00 GMT.


Stage Date
Call opens 19 July 2017
Application deadline 24 October 2017, 16:00 BST/15:00 GMT
Joint panel to agree outcome February/March 2018
Projects to commence 1 July 2018

Related calls: agriculture collaboration crops food multidisciplinary Newton Fund