Crop Science Centre - Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Mandana Miri

Mandana Miri


Mandana received her Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Western, Canada under supervision of Professor Krzysztof Szczyglowski where she investigated the crosstalk between two plant hormones, cytokinin and ethylene, in the context of nodule and infection thread formation in the model legume Lotus japonicus. Her work led to several publications, awards, grants, accolades, and scholarships including the “Best Thesis Award”.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Industry-led doctoral training partnership focused on sustainable innovation to develop a new generation of agri scientists

Industry-led doctoral training partnership focused on sustainable innovation to develop a new generation of agri scientists

News
The Crop Science Centre and NIAB building

An industry-wide consortium, led by producer organisation G’s Growers and involving the Crop Science Centre, has won a UKRI-BBSRC collaborative training partnership award (CTP) to provide a £3.6 million postgraduate training programme in sustainable agricultural innovation.

The CTP programme for Sustainable Agricultural Innovation (CTP-SAI) will ensure young scientists are ‘business aware’, opening up opportunities for careers across industry. Running from 2022 to 2028, the CTP-SAI will create a pre-competitive network in which businesses can explore and co-design research and innovation programmes and will train 30 PhD students. 

 Ensuring the programme is inclusive and recruits a diverse range of candidates into agriculture is a priority. The CTP-SAI aims to lead the sector by example, training the next generation of new thinkers, ready to act in the public and private sector to effect positive global change in the food and farming system. The programme is supported by leading UK and international agri-food businesses, research organisations and charitable organisations representing the collective needs of farmers and practitioners.

 Dr Richard Harrison, NIAB’s Director of Cambridge Crop Research, says, “This CTP stretches across the food and farming crop supply chain, bringing together partners to address the joint challenges of reducing emissions, developing resilient farming systems and reversing biodiversity decline. Our vision is to train new thinkers for new times, providing outstanding training to address the challenges of creating and delivering sustainable agricultural systems.”

 Emma Garfield, Head of Research Agronomy at G’s Growers Ltd, says: “Businesses need access to postgraduates with skills in research and innovation in order to adapt to the enormous challenges that climate change, land use change and biodiversity loss pose. We also need to ensure that the supply chain products and processes pass the test of responsible, sustainable innovation that is core to each businesses value set and corporate social responsibilities.”

 Ms Garfield explains that the CTP programme places science-led innovation at its heart to ensure field-based agriculture is equipped with tools to enable resilient, sustainable and economic crop production whilst meeting consumer demands. The programme will address both short-term bioscience research challenges to facilitate the delivery of solutions within the next decade as well as thinking longer-term about the wider systems changes that will be underpinned by the research that this cohort of students will undertake.

 “A set of bespoke underpinning training modules have been developed in data science and machine learning, entrepreneurship and systems thinking in a global food security context, which will provide stimulating, thought-provoking skills-based training opportunities in some of the key areas that, regardless of scientific specialism, the leaders of today and tomorrow require,” says Dr Harrison.

 “This integrated programme, the first of its kind, will ensure that regardless of the future career path CTP students choose, they will have a thorough understanding of how businesses work and how, as scientists, to positively engage in bringing science-led solutions to market,” finishes Ms Garfield.

 The programme has been co-developed with NIAB as part of its alliance with the University of Cambridge, the Crop Science Centre, the James Hutton Institute and leading UK universities.

 

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

one year on since our launch

one year on since our launch

News
Crop Science Centre Director

It has been a year to the day since the Crop Science Centre launched with the aim of improving resilience and equity of productivity in global agriculture. Professor Giles Oldroyd FRS, Russell R. Geiger Professor of Crop Science at the University of Cambridge and Inaugural Director of the Crop Science Centre, reflects on a remarkable year:

"Since then [launch], the centre has changed dramatically from an empty building with a team of four people working remotely attempting to make the space operational, to a thriving and diverse working environment with 49 members of students and staff. We have also had six students working with us over the summer and we even have our first faculty member spending a sabbatical with us.

For me, one of the highlights of the year was welcoming three new Crop Science Centre research fellows and one Royal Society Research fellow. I am thrilled to be supporting young scientists to develop their research careers in crop sciences. These appointments have brought focus to our research areas, with research groups working on Sustainable Crop Nutrition, Cereal Symbioses, Crop-Parasite Interactions, Crop Immunity and Crop Breeding Technologies.

Despite the efforts getting operational at a time of significant restrictions on access to the laboratories, we have still managed to progress our science and impact agenda. In particular our first field work and establishing our new glasshouses with speed breeding capability, that massively increases the pace of crop genetics. We also have a number of publications on our science that you can read about further on this website.

We are currently busy working on new infrastructure for bioimaging and crop transformation, new opportunities for training in crop sciences at masters and PhD level and working on our first GM field trials that we hope to have in the ground by next year.

When I look back at where we were a year ago today I am amazed at how much we have achieved and I am excited about the impact we can have on making sure that everyone on this planet has access to affordable food, grown in the most sustainable manner."

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Eric Ober

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.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Ji Zhou

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.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Thiago Alexandre Moraes

Thiago Alexandre Moraes


Thiago is an early career scientist who trained as a technologist in environmental sanitation. This training gave him a strong background in ecology and toxicology as well as in mathematics and programming. He carried out his PhD and a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plants Physiology in Potsdam and secured an expertise in experimental and genetic manipulation of plants and precise quantification of metabolite levels and transcript abundance.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

The first Crop Science Centre trial harvest

The first Crop Science Centre trial harvest

News
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."

 

 

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

George Crane

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.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Jeongmin Choi

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.

Publications

Sustainable food production for everyone

The Crop Science Centre is a coalition between the University of Cambridge, Department of Plant Sciences, and NIAB. This coalition focuses on translational research in crops with real-world impact. We combine the diverse skills and expertise of the University and NIAB, providing an environment for research excellence with the capability to apply discoveries to crop improvement in the field.

Our research is interdisciplinary and of global relevance. We strive to improve both staple crops such as maize, wheat and rice, but also the specific crops of relevance to small-holder farmers, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Centre provides leadership in crop sciences, with a creative and dynamic research culture, motivated by improvement of agriculture for the betterment of society.

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