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  • Strengthening Links with Crop Science and Farming Practices
    Field Station at Bawburgh taking shape. Pic Cedit: JIC

Strengthening Links with Crop Science and Farming Practices

Mar 28 2018 Read 511 Times

A new field experimental station to assist advances in crop science is under construction in Norfolk which will enable scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) to carry out ground-breaking research and improve understanding of how genes control plant growth in the field. The new facility, located at Church Farm, Bawburgh brings together facilities that have previously been distributed across several sites. The aim is to create tools for plant breeders to produce new varieties that are more reliable, nutritious and resilient to pests and diseases.

Cathy Mumford, who leads the field experimental team at the JIC, explains the need for the new station: “It means researchers can investigate crop genetics and their effects in an environment in which farmers would grow their crops, where every season is different unlike a glass house or controlled environment. Researchers will be able to benefit from lab and field facilities that are side by side and there will be a range of facilities under one roof.”

With a proposed opening for July 2018, the new development is set in 110 hectares of farmland owned by the JIC of which 20 hectares are used each year for field research on crops and some non-crop plant species.

The 1700sqm building includes a plant processing “dirty” laboratory where scientists can process crop samples taken from the trials fields, along with a “clean” laboratory which will provide access to high grade scientific facilities; and freezer storage for plant tissue samples down to minus 80 degrees.

The climate-controlled grain storage, will allow the medium-term storage of seeds, the product of many years of research. This seed will be available for scientists and breeders from across the globe to use in their own crop improvement research. There is also office space, meeting rooms and storage space for agricultural equipment.

Most of the funding for the £4.3 million facility comes from BBSRC, with a contribution from the John Innes Foundation.

The facility is central to the John Innes Centre strategy to deliver BBSRC-funded research on plant health, genes in the environment and designing future wheat, a cross institute programme spanning eight research institutes and universities. In addition to scientists from the John Innes Centre, the facility will be used by researchers from The Sainsbury Laboratory, Quadram Institute and the Earlham Institute all located on the Norwich Research Park.

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