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£3M awarded to boost sustainable agriculture

Copyright: Digital Vision, Thinkstock

10 new interdisciplinary projects have today received a share of £3M to improve the sustainability of UK farming. The funding was awarded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) alongside 12 industry partners.

The grants totalling £3.2M were funded in the second round of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC), which supports interdisciplinary projects to provide solutions to key challenges affecting the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.

Among the funded research studies is work to improve the weather resilience of crops, sensing soil nitrogen, and advanced technologies for crop management. The translational studies include work to establish decision tools for slurry usage and potato cyst nematode management, devices to assess and improve the use of animal nutrients, and an assessment of the risks of pesticide run-off.

Speaking on behalf of the collaborating UK Research Councils, Dr Karen Lewis, BBSRC Interim Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: “The projects recommended for funding through this round of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club will contribute to addressing issues relevant both to sustainable intensification of farming and the agricultural industry.

“We are pleased that the projects will investigate a diverse range of topics that explore biological, environmental and social issues in agriculture. The SARIC community is well placed to ensure the results of these studies can be translated into benefits for society.”

SARIC was formed following consultation with trade associations, levy boards, policy makers and academia. The discussions identified a need to bring together researchers from the environmental, biological and social sciences with industry, to translate knowledge for the purpose of progressing towards more sustainable agricultural systems.

Industry partners pay a subscription fee to be part of SARIC and benefit from improved connectivity with the UK research base and early access to research and translation outcomes. This five year public-private partnership will result in approximately £10M being invested to address key challenges identified by industry.

For more information see: Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC).

The funded research projects are:

SARIC funded research projects

Principal investigator Organisation Title Value
George Blackburn Lancaster University Increasing the resilience of cereal and oilseed rape production to weather damage £548,121
Davey Jones University of Bangor Real-time in situ sensing of soil nitrogen status to promote enhanced nitrogen use efficiency in agricultural systems £549,266
Matthew Williams The University of Edinburgh Advanced technologies for efficient crop management: A participatory approach with application at farm scale £773,320

The translational research projects will establish new collaborations to tackle the challenges of sustainable intensification in agriculture:

SARIC funded translational research projects

Principal investigator Organisation Title Value
Alexis Comber University of Leeds Real-time predictions of pesticide run-off risk multi-scale visualisations of water quality risks and costs £199,966
Bruce Grieve The University of Manchester Low-cost fibre optic matting for direct live-mapping of livestock weight to improve feed efficiency. Development, demonstration & imaging integration £199,999
Alison Kingston-Smith Aberystwyth University Hand Held Technologies for Assessment of Nutrient Digestibility £195,386
David Ross SRUC Novel animal-mounted sensor technology to improve efficiency and sustainability £200,000
Elizabeth Stockdale Newcastle University Delivering a decision-support framework – £190,849
Peter Urwin University of Leeds Development of a PCN population advisory tool that provides robust advice and management £167,601
Claire Waterton Lancaster University Holistic decision-support system for organic slurry storage and treatment techniques for maximum nutrient use efficiencies (SLURRY-MAX) £195,750



BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £473 million in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
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UK Research and Innovation Media Office

Tags: agriculture livestock crops funding research BBSRC press release