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BBSRC collaboration with US funders NSF and NIFA to support Breakthrough Technologies to Advance Crop Breeding


In this recent collaboration with US funders, BBSRC supports 10 research projects focussing on using and developing cutting edge technology to advance crop breeding with £2 million from the Fund for International Collaboration (FIC) which was announced earlier this year (read more on the UK Research and Innovation: Fund for International Collaboration (FIC) web page). In these two year high-risk, high-reward projects British researchers collaborate with US researchers funded by either the National Science Foundation (NSF) or USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The total call volume is approximately £8 million.

“UKRI’s Fund for International Collaboration has enabled us to strengthen our relationship with the US, says Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of BBSRC. “Transnational funding calls such as this allow BBSRC not only to foster scientific excellence but also to help tackling global challenges like food security and reducing environmental impacts from agriculture.”

"Environmental change, population disruption and agricultural needs are profound, global concerns, says Anne Sylvester, the NSF program director responsible for this call. “This competition called for scientists and engineers to collaborate and build new, effective solutions to improve crop systems by harnessing all available technologies.”

The research aims to find new ways to ensure crops such as maize, wheat, tomatoes, onions and brassicas are better adapted to soil conditions, attacks by pathogens and other environmental fluctuations. The improved performance and quality of crops will create a more sustainable agriculture with benefits for consumers, farmers and the UK agricultural business sector.

The funded UK projects are:

  • Harnessing the power of cellular memory to enhance the breeding potential of crops

    UK Partner: Jose Gutierrez-Marcos, University of Warwick
    US partner: Robert Schmitz, University of Georgia (NIFA)

  • A Pathway to the Exploitation of Epigenetic Variation in UK, US and International Breeding Programmes

    UK Partner: Anthony Hall, Earlham Institute
    US Partner: Eduard Akhunov, Kansas State University (NIFA)

  • Induction of double haploids in wheat using CENH3 mutants and genome editing

    UK Partner: Cristobal Uauy, John Innes Centre
    US Partner: Jorge Dubcovsky, University of California-Davis (NIFA)

  • Investigating Genetic, Epigenetic and Environmental Control of Meiotic Recombination using Fluorescent Crossover Reporters in Tomato

    UK Partner: Ian Henderson, University of Cambridge
    US Partner: Gregory P Copenhaver, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (NSF)

  • Epi-TOM: The development and characterization of an EpiRIL TOMato population

    UK Partner: Paul Fraser, Royal Holloway University of London & Graham Seymour, University of Nottingham
    US Partner: James Giovannoni, Cornell University (NIFA)

  • Engineering complex traits using targeted, multiplexed genetic and epigenetic mutagenesis

    UK Partner: Nicola Patron, Earlham Institute
    US Partner: Siobhan Brady, University of California-Davis (NIFA)

  • A system for the production of haploid inducer lines and cytoplasmic male sterile doubled haploids for efficient hybrid production

    UK Partner: Stephen Jackson, University of Warwick
    US Partner: Patrick J Krysan, University of Wisconsin-Madison (NSF)

  • Advancing hybrid wheat production through the use of novel pathways for male sterility

    UK Partner: Graham Moore, John Innes Centre
    US Partner: Blake C Meyers, Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre (NIFA)

  • Controlling meiotic recombination in crops by manipulating DNA methylation

    UK Partner: Chris Franklin & Eugenio Sanchez Moran, University of Birmingham
    US Partner: Wojciech P Pawlowski, Cornell University (NSF)

  • Clean genome editing through the use of nonintegrating T-DNA technology

    UK Partner: Christopher West, University of Leeds
    US Partner: Stanton B Gelvin, Purdue University (NSF)



The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

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 £498 million in world-class bioscience in 2017-18. 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 UK Research and Innovation.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
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Tags: industry news collaboration food security