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UK Partners Fund $6.5M in Cereal Crop Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council said today that the Crop Improvement Research Club, a public-private consortium that funds studies of cereal crops, has invested £4 million ($6.5 million) to support nine new research projects.

The CIRC is funded by the BBSRC, the Scottish Government, and 14 companies, including plant breeders Monsanto UK, Syngenta, BASF Plant Science, as well as groups representing farmers and food processors.

The CIRC partners work together to identify what types of research projects that focus on oilseed rape, barley, and wheat should be supported, and the data from these efforts are shared among them at regular events.

This funding marks the second tranche of the CIRC's funding. It awarded £3.5 million last year to fund six research projects, including studies focused on genetics and genomics.

CIRC's core goals is to fund studies aimed at solving bottlenecks that cause inefficiencies in food production by supporting research into crop productivity and quality.

"The projects funded in the second call complement those of the first call and hence cover a wide range of topics that will benefit all involved from breeders to consumers. No one company could hope to undertake the sort of research that CIRC enables but by clubbing together with the help of public funders we hope to make improvements across the industry to deliver real benefits," Simon Hook, chairman of the CIRC Steering Group, said in a statement.

The nine projects funded by this study include grants to Stephen Hoad at Scottish Agricultural College to use phenotyping and genetic analysis to study causes and control of grain skinning in malting barley; Anna Avrova of The James Hutton Institute to investigate fungal effectors as activators of novel resistances in cereals; Gary Bending at The University of Warwick to explore yield improvement of oilseed rape through genetic manipulation of rhizosphere exudation; Andy Greenland at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany to study the production of wheat lacking B-type starch granules; Martin Broadley of the University of Nottingham to develop low-cost, high-throughput root phenotyping screens for arable crops; Pete Shewry at Rothamsted Research to research the role of lipids in determining gas bubble retention in wheat dough; William Thomas of The James Hutton Institute for research to improve the processability of malting barley; Richard Whalley of Rothamstead Research to phenotype root function in wheat; and Zoe Wilson at the University of Nottingham to develop a cereal fertility pipeline for wheat and barley.

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