About us

Our mission is to make global food production more equitable, sustainable and resilient.

To achieve this, we work in four key research areas; sustainable crop nutrition, enhancing photosynthesis, reducing losses from pests and pathogens, and crop breeding technologies.

University of Cambridge NIAB Department of Plant Sciences
Scientists working with plants

A coalition rooted in research providing results with a real-world impact

Our facilities

The Crop Science Centre has a range of facilities to support research excellence. These include:

  • Labs with equipment for: molecular biology, biochemistry, tissue culture and histology.
  • A Media Service which facilitates production of various media and solutions
  • A stores team supporting lab logistics.
  • A Microscopy Facility which includes: a high-end point scanning confocal microscope for the imaging of fluorescence intensity and fluorescence lifetime-based information, a stereomicroscope with fluorescence and several widefield microscopes. In addition, the Microscopy facility also hosts specialised microscopes for imaging of calcium oscillations in plant roots.
  • A Horticultural Facility which has several walk-in and reach-in plant growth chambers.
  • Access to the NIAB Glasshouses and Park farm field trial sites.
  • ENSA Platform Services, which supports gene synthesis, construct assembly and genotyping.
  • The ENSA Phenotyping and Genetics Team, which carries out the phenotypic characterisation of the ENSA plant material and drives the genetics to sustain these lines.
Map showing CSC location

View a map showing our research centre, which is based in the NIAB building

Petri dish and plants

Equity in agriculture

While the green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s led to significant improvements in the productivity of our staple crop plants, it did not benefit the world’s poorest farmers.

Smallholder farmers, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa, cannot afford the high quality seed or the chemical inputs that drive up crop production and control crop pests and diseases. Their crop yields suffer as a consequence, with most smallholders achieving less than 20% of the potential productivity of their crops.

For many of these farmers, their production is not only their primary food source, but also their primary income. Continuously poor yields creates a cycle of poverty, with farmers unable to invest in their future crop performance, because their past production yielded poorly. Such farmers lack the resilience to survive droughts or floods, a dangerous situation with climate change leading to greater likelihoods of devastating climatic events.

At the Crop Science Centre, we are developing crop plants that perform in low-input agricultural systems, as well as crop plants that are robust to climatic extremes. We strive to improve the resilience of small-holder farmers by maximising their productivity through better crop varieties.

We believe this is the best way to help smallholders: seeds can be shared and they can be used from one year to the next. Through collaborations with academia, industry, charities and government bodies we aim to ensure that the research we do benefits the farmers who need it most.

Woman in field

Sustainability in agriculture

Improvements in agriculture during the 20th Century were highly reliant on chemical inputs: inorganic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. This has resulted in large amounts of these chemicals applied around the world to sustain our food production systems. Whilst essential to sustain yields, their release into the environment has detrimental consequences.

One of the greatest impacts of agricultural pollution is a decline in the biodiversity of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Because of these impacts we are seeing the removal or restriction of some of these chemical inputs from the market, but this means that we are also losing some of the best current mechanisms to maximise crop performance.

At the Crop Science Centre we are working to replace chemical inputs in agriculture through biological solutions. Plants have been evolving on this planet for 450 million years and in this time they have found inventive ways to solve many of the problems we face in agriculture.

We are using this wealth of diversity in plants to develop sustainable solutions to the high-input agriculture on which we currently rely. We aim to develop transformative technologies that can be used around the globe, by the wealthiest and the poorest farmers, driving a second green revolution in agriculture: one that delivers secure food, without damaging the environment in the process.

Man in field

Equality in agricultural sciences

Agricultural sciences suffers from poor representation of women and minorities, particularly at leadership levels. At the Crop Science Centre we are attempting to correct this imbalance and strive to maximise equality and diversity in agricultural research.

We value all members of the research community and strive to create a research environment that allows everyone to succeed. We believe a diverse environment is a creative environment that benefits everyone.

I am proud to be both the director of this institution and an openly gay man. For me, turning up to work authentically is important for my scientific creativity. I hope my honesty about my sexuality empowers others to also be open about who they are.

Professor Giles Oldroyd
CSC Director

I am excited to further my research at the Crop Science Centre. Working as a woman and mother in the science arena for more than 25 years I value equality and flexibility, and above all authenticity. Diversity is a strength that enables scientific imagination to flourish to its full potential.

Professor Uta Paszkowski
Professor of Plant Molecular Genetics

Our science

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.

Learn more
Technician working in lab

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