Crop Science Centre - Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Eric Ober

Eric Ober is a group leader in crop physiology within the Genetics and Breeding Department at NIAB.

His research focuses on improving crop yields and yield stability through increased understanding of the plant traits that contribute to yield formation, drought tolerance and the efficient use of water.

Ji Zhou

 Dr Ji Zhou leads NIAB’s Data Sciences Department since early 2020. His department focuses on developing multi-scale indoor and in-field plant phenotyping through satellite, Agri-Drones, LiDAR, self-developed low-cost remote sensing, Videometer and Opera HCS system.

The first Crop Science Centre trial harvest

Tom and Sue at the harvest

This August will see the first trial harvest at the Crop Science Centre. Writing ahead of this harvest, Crop Science Centre Scientist, and harvest co-ordinator, Tom Thirkell said:

Tom Thirkell at the harvestWe are excited to have planted our first ENSA field trial here at the Crop Science Centre, a collaboration between NIAB and the University of Cambridge. In this trial, we are testing the effect of mycorrhizal fungi inoculants on the performance of four cultivars of spring malting barley - LG Diablo, RGT Planet, Laureate and Golden Promise. We will soon harvest the trial and assess the impact of the mycorrhizas on crop yield and grain nutrient contents.

Most of our crop plants in the UK already grow in symbiosis with naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi, but many practices in modern agriculture such as tillage and fertiliser application can harm the formation and function of these interactions. As a result, the benefit received by the plants from mycorrhizas can be low or even zero. In this barley trial, we are taking the first steps to investigate how mycorrhizas form in the field, and how we might develop new crops which establish strong, positive interactions with mycorrhizal fungi.”

At the Crop Science Centre, we are searching for innovative ways to improve the sustainability of farming systems globally. Efficient nutrient uptake by crops is still a major challenge across the world, and sustainably improving crop nutrition is a major focus of our work. In higher-income countries, the over-use of fertilisers often causes environmental damage, while in lower-income countries, crop yields are limited because fertilisers are unaffordable or unavailable to many farmers. It is increasingly clear that to achieve global food security, future crops must be less reliant on synthetic fertilisers.

Blog Update, The day of the harvest - September 9 2020

Tom and Sue watching the mini combine harvest the trial Barley crops

The trial barley crops have now been successfully harvested from Park Farm by a team from NIAB, including Sue Mann (photographed above)One plot on the field trial. The trial had four cultivars of barley, and each of these either had a mycorrhizal inoculum added when the seeds were sown, or they were sown without the inoculum, so there were eight treatment groups. Each of these groups was then replicated six times, so there were 48 trials plots in total. The plots were 2m wide x 9m long  (as can be seen on the photo to the right).

Writing shortly after the harvest was complete, Tom Thirkell said:

"After a damp start the sky cleared, and some afternoon sun dried the trial enough for the harvester to go out. I am really pleased with the way the harvest went, and the trial in general - NIAB have been great to work with on this project. I am looking forward to working through the data from our first field trial at the Crop Science Centre and seeing what effects the mycorrhizal inoculation had on these barley cultivars. As well as getting yield data from these plots, we are sending samples for further analysis which will give us details on the nutritional and malting quality of our barley crop."



George Crane

George is investigating how farming practices influence the diversity and abundance of AM fungi, and how these communities impact soil health, crop growth, and yield.

Jeongmin Choi

Jeongmin received her undergrad and master’s degrees at Seoul National University in South Korea where she studied soybean genomics. She then moved to the University of Missouri in the US for her PhD and identified the first plant receptor recognizing extracellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as a danger signal.

Natasha Yelina

Prior to joining the Crop Science Centre Natasha worked on the fundamental aspects of plant meiotic recombination, genetics, epigenetics and plant pathology at the Department of Plant Sciences within the University of Cambridge, the Sainsbury laboratory in Norwich and Moscow State University in Russia.

Lida Derevnina

Lida received her PhD in plant breeding and plant pathology at the University of Sydney, Australia, where she identified and characterized rust resistance genes in cultivated barley. After completing her PhD, she joined the University of California, Davis, USA, as a postdoctoral researcher working in comparative genomics of downy mildews. Following this, Lida was awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie independent fellowship to undertake research at The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) in Norwich.

Dr Sebastian Eves-van den Akker

Sebastian received his Ph. D. in plant pathology from the University of Leeds and the James Hutton Institute in 2014. Sebastian was then awarded an Anniversary Future Leaders Fellowship from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to pursue independent research at the University of Dundee and the John Innes Centre (2015-2018). In 2018, he was awarded a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship and established the Plant-Parasite Interactions group at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge.


Sustainable food production for everyone

The Crop Science Centre is an alliance between the University of Cambridge and NIAB. Our research is funded by:

Our mission

At the Crop Science Centre, we are generating crop plants that deliver sufficient food for everyone in a sustainable way

  • We deliver agricultural impact, using excellence in research
  • We strive for sustainability, reducing agricultural reliance on chemical inputs
  • We foster equality, valuing all members of our research community
  • We believe in equity, ensuring even the world’s poorest farmers can grow enough food

Years of research has provided a deep understanding of how plants function, creating opportunities to transform the way we produce our food.  I am motivated to improve the sustainability and the equity of food production worldwide

Professor Giles Oldroyd,
CSC Director

Professor Giles Oldroyd

“The delivery of both public goods and economic growth is essential for today’s plant scientists, with the need to produce sufficient healthy nutritious food without harming the environment being at the top of the international agenda.”

Dr Tina Barsby,
CEO and Director of NIAB

Dr Tina Barsby

“We envisage that new CSC crop technologies will enable higher crop yields and lower environmental impact for crop-based food production – as well as contributing to improved dietary health.”

Sir David Baulcombe,
Royal Society Professor

Sir David Baulcombe

Get the latest from the Crop Science Centre

Register your email for short, occasional updates