Science and Technology news
Key developments in science and technology in agriculture
27 May 2023
Rothamsted to receive £60m to help push agricultural research
Rothamsted Research will receive more than £60m in new funding to help spearhead important agricultural and food security research.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has announced it is going to fund strategically important research at Rothamsted over the next five years.
The projects will centre around crop resilience, nutrition and health, food safety and food security, with a focus on more sustainable farming.
25 May 2023
High Court rejects legal challenge over fast-growing broilers
A High Court judge has rejected a legal challenge brought by animal welfare campaigners over the use of fast-growing broiler chickens for meat consumption.
The Humane League UK, which brought the legal challenge, had argued fast-growing breeds suffer health and welfare problems. The campaign group claimed conventional meat birds, which they say grow unnaturally large and fast, breach the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007.
Defra challenged the claims, insisting there is no scientific proof fast-growing birds suffer health problems as a matter of course. The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and all farm animals, including broilers, are protected by “robust animal health and welfare legislation”, it said.
23 May 2023
Bird flu: Brazil declares animal health emergency after several cases found
Brazil has declared a six-month animal health emergency after several cases of avian flu were found in wild birds. Seven cases have been reported in Espirito Santo state, with another discovered in Rio de Janeiro state.
The emergency declaration makes it easier for the government to now bring in measures to stop the highly infectious H5N1 virus from spreading.
Brazil is the world's largest exporter of chicken meat, with annual sales of nearly $10bn (£8bn). Authorities say the cases were found far away from Brazil's main areas of production in the south of the country.
22 May 2023
New science hub seeks to combat Scottish farming's challenges
Businesses and entrepreneurs are being sought to take up residence in a new multi-million pound innovation centre seeking to create links between science and the farming industry.
Set to open in Inverness later this year, the Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre (RAVIC) will bring together scientists, innovators and businesses to create new products, services and solutions to overcome sector challenges, including animal disease, climate change and food security.
There will also be an emphasis on bioscience, including animal health, as RAVIC is to form part of Scotland’s new School of Veterinary Medicine. The £12.5m project is being led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), and funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Scottish Funding Council.
19 May 2023
Agricultural universities join forces to address industry challenges
Sixteen agricultural universities across the UK have joined forces to address farming industry challenges and further the impact of their research. A new joint strategy outlines how the group of universities are working together to address the challenges that are currently faced within UK agriculture.
It was launched by the Agricultural Universities Council (AUC), which includes the likes of Scotland's Rural College, the Royal Agricultural University, and Hartpury, among 13 others. It follows a year-long investigation by the AUC into the farming industry's priorities, current research activities and its strengths and weaknesses.
17 May 2023
Global warming set to break key 1.5C limit for first time
Our overheating world is likely to break a key temperature limit for the first time over the next few years, scientists predict. Researchers say there's now a 66% chance we will pass the 1.5C global warming threshold between now and 2027. The chances are rising due to emissions from human activities and a change in weather patterns expected this summer.
If the world passes the limit, scientists stress the breach, while worrying, will likely be temporary.
Hitting the threshold would mean the world is 1.5C warmer than it was during the second half of the 19th Century, before fossil fuel emissions from industrialisation really began to ramp up. And breaking the limit even for just one year is a worrying sign that warming is accelerating and not slowing down.
16 May 2023
Government unveils raft of pledges to boost UK farming amid food summit
The government has pledged to commit to farmers' interests in future trade deals, as well as boost UK fruit and vegetable production, as part of a new package of support.
The raft of pledges has been set out by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of the Farm to Fork Summit hosted at Downing Street today (16 May).
The government also announced up to £30 million of investment to drive forward the use of precision breeding technologies.
15 May 2023
Portable chambers to measure sheep methane introduced on UK farm
High-tech portable chambers for measuring methane emissions from sheep are being used in the UK for the first time. New Zealand-designed Portable Accumulation Chambers (PACs) have been unveiled as the latest tool in mitigating agricultural greenhouse gases.
The trailer-mounted chambers can predict methane emissions in individual sheep from a variety of systems, including at pasture, as well as in multiple locations. The chambers collect air samples and then analyse methane concentration, showing which genetics, feed types and systems generate the highest emission levels.
9 May 2023
Gene-editing technology used to produce first BVDV resistant calf
Scientists have collaborated to produce the first gene-edited calf with resistance to bovine viral diarrhea virus, a virus that costs the U.S. cattle sector billions of dollars annually. The recent study published in PNAS Nexus results from a collaboration between the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Kentucky and industry partners, Acceligen and Recombinetics, Inc.
BVDV is one of the most significant viruses affecting the health and well-being of cattle worldwide, and researchers have been studying it since the 1940s when it was first recognized. This virus does not affect humans but is highly contagious among cattle and can cause severe respiratory and intestinal diseases.
Despite more than 50 years of vaccine availability, controlling BVDV disease remains a problem since vaccines are not always effective in stopping transmission.
9 May 2023
High adoption of gene-edited crop seeds likely in 'next five to ten years'
High adoption of gene-edited crop seeds is expected in the next five to ten years, a new report by Rabobank suggests.
Although the exact timeline for the adoption of gene-editing (GE) seeds is hard to estimate, researchers expect that adoption rates will surpass 50% within five to ten years.
Rabobank's report says that GE technology has the potential to benefit the entire food supply chain, from producers to consumers.
8 May 2023
How technology lets crops turn pollution into fertiliser
A new technology that captures air pollution and uses sunlight to convert it into nitrate on the leaf surface of a crop has been developed by Lincoln-based Crop Intellect.
Called R-Leaf, it uses a process known as photocatalysis to break down nitrous oxide and turn it into an essential crop nutrient, offering the potential to reduce both farm emissions and the industry’s reliance on synthetic nitrogen.
Against a background of rollercoaster fertiliser markets and environmental concerns, the technology is being feted as a ground-breaking development that will allow farmers to make better use of nitrogen fertiliser and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its use.
3 May 2023
Canada moves forward on giving gene-editing the conventional plant breeding stamp of approval
The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau today announced how Canada will handle crop cultivars that contain gene-editing as part of the breeding process. Bibeau says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is officially moving ahead with Part V(5) of the Seed Regulations changes that have been under consultation since 2021. Last May, Health Canada released guidelines regarding the approval of plants with non-novel traits, prompting the organic sector to ask for more clarification on how gene-edited varieties would be kept separate from genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).
The announcement means that varieties or cultivars developed with gene-editing will not be considered a GMO under Canadian rules. Bibeau says that gene-editing ushers in a new era for plant breeding techniques, replicating conventional methods more quickly, adding that the scientific consensus is that gene-edited crops are as safe for humans, animals, and the environment as those created through conventional breeding.