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UEA, JIC sign crop science agreement with India

Leading scientists from the Norwich Research Park and around the UK are working with Indian officials to tackle global food shortages and increase crop yields.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 24 February between India’s Department of Biotechnology and a consortium of British research institutions, including the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the John Innes Centre (JIC).

The aim of the MoU is to establish a joint UK-India collaboration programme in crop science, which will enhance collaborative research, promote knowledge exchange, and support capacity building to develop resilience in food security.

The agreement was signed on behalf of UEA by Prof Philip Gilmartin, the executive dean of the Faculty of Science. It was also signed by Prof K. VijayRaghavan, secretary of the Indian Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, and by Dr Nafees Meah, director of the Research Councils UK India, on behalf of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Other signatories included Prof Dale Sanders, director of the JIC, and representatives from the University of Cambridge, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in Cambridge and Rothamsted Research.

The MoU was signed in the presence of India’s Union Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan, and the Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Sh Y S Chowdary.

Prof Gilmartin said: “This exciting initiative provides the opportunity to combine expertise in plant science, food security and environmental and climate science between the UK partner organisations and leading researchers in India, to address important global challenges through collaborative research and interdisciplinary partnerships.”

Prof Sanders said: “The gauntlet, represented by the second sustainable development goal of zero hunger, has been thrown down at the global crop science community. I am delighted that the UK and India will be one of the first international research partnerships to pick up that gauntlet. I believe that we have a massive contribution to make together.”

Prof K. VijayRaghavan said: “The United Kingdom has been a long-standing partner with the government of India in science and technology, a collaboration that has grown from strength to strength. On the foundation of this excellence we are delighted to take a very new and very important direction in crop science. Our partners are the best in the UK and together we can be the best anywhere, working together to address a key global problem.”

The international collaboration will “develop and improve the translation of fundamental crop research into agronomic practice,” said Dr Tina Barsby, CEO and director of NIAB.

Dr Barsby said: “We want to give farmers and growers throughout the sub-continent access to the most advanced developments in agricultural science and technology.” 

All parties agreed on the importance of crop science as an area of enormous potential for scientific collaboration, and its central role in driving global food security in India and beyond.

The agreement foresees joint projects focusing on the fundamental science underpinning yield enhancement, disease resistance and drought resistance; research into crop re-breeding; and the translation of fundamental research into sustainable agriculture practice. It also contemplates the establishment of a joint Indo-UK Plant Science Centre in India.