News & Views
Field Station Points to Future of Smart Farming
Jun 21 2019 Read 490 Times
A new £4.3m facility in East Anglia will be a key component for the smart-farming revolution, incorporating laboratories and cutting-edge facilities used in genetic research to make major crops more nutritious, disease resistant and climate resilient.
The Dorothea de Winton Field Station at Bawburgh near Norwich, officially opened by National Farmers’ Union President Minette Batters, will enable scientists at the John Innes Centre and colleagues across the Norwich Research Park to take genetic improvements seen in labs and glasshouses and trial them in a realistic commercial farm setting. “It is wonderful to see this centre out in the field. We need to make sure that farmers, scientists, technicians, agronomists are delivering from the lab and glasshouse into the field. The future is smart, evidence-based farming and this development enables that,” she said.
Named after Dorothea de Winton a geneticist who worked for the John Innes Centre from 1920-41, the 1.700square metre building includes two laboratories, climate-controlled grain storage, meeting rooms, seed processing equipment and agricultural machinery storage. Professor Dale Sanders, Director of the John Innes Centre welcomed a gathering of science, agriculture and public policy communities at the opening. “This is terribly exciting time to work in crop science. It is impossible to underestimate the recent revolution in the field of wheat biology. It is estimated that less than 10 per cent of the genetic diversity of wheat has been exploited in elite varieties grown in the UK and around the world. Advances in genomic analysis and in other approaches in the last two years have opened up wheat improvements, making the opening of this field station incredibly timely. Here we will grow not only wheat, the UK’s major crop but also barley, oilseed rape and legumes and we aim to unlock the diversity of nature in these crop species, and work with agricultural partners to get that diversity our into the field.
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