Science and Technology news
Key developments in science and technology in agriculture
1 December 2023
British-grown baked beans enter tinning phase after successful farm trials
British baked beans grown using innovative methods have progressed to the tinning phase, with researchers hailing it as a step towards sustainable, UK-sourced food options.
A specially bred haricot bean, grown in Lincolnshire with the help of Warwick University, are the first UK bean that can be used as baked beans. Previously, baked beans have had to be imported from as far as South America and China.
The beans are now grown on a commercial scale at a farm in Lincolnshire following 12 years of research. Warwick University scientists hope that the baked bean breakthrough will reduce the reliance on imports.
27 November 2023
Food prices could see 'further increases' in 2024 due to climate change
Food price inflation remains at 10% with prices still near record highs, but the situation could worsen next year as El Niño and climate change continues, a report warns.
As energy prices have come down in 2023, climate costs have gone up compared to last year, scientists at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) say.
Climate change now accounts for a third of all food price inflation, according to their new research. The continuing of the El Niño weather phenomenon, on top of climate change, could lead to more severe climate impacts and further increases in food prices in 2024, the report warns.
23 November 2023
EU parliament strikes down pesticide law
EU lawmakers have rejected a proposal to cut by half pesticide use within the bloc after a backlash from rightwing politicians and farmers.
The European parliament on Wednesday voted down the pesticides regulation by a big majority. It was one of the key outstanding pieces of the bloc’s Green Deal climate law, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions within the EU by 55 per cent by 2030 as well as improve biodiversity and ecosystems.
The rejection — a highly unusual occurrence — means the European Commission must consider withdrawing the proposal. Votes were 299 against the regulation, with 207 in favour and 121 abstentions.
22 November 2023
World-leading scientists to maximise indoor farming’s potential to feed millions
A world-first international research network designed to bring together leading minds in crop and data science as well as multiple engineering disciplines has been established to drive innovation in vertical farming, a technology that can dramatically improve global food security.
Vertical farm infrastructure enables producers to grow crops regardless of climate, weather or environmental conditions such as soil health. It is a crucial tool in helping the world sustainably feed a growing population, improving food security and reducing food miles while catering to local needs and tastes.
Launched by agritech infrastructure business and vertical farm innovator, Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), the research network so far spans four continents, bringing together the brightest minds in plant science, data science, horticulture, forestry and engineering to continue to broaden the application of vertical farming technology and the range of its applications.
21 November 2023
New UK centre launched to tackle food security and climate change
Scientists will carry out research into plant breeding and animal nutrition to increase agricultural productivity as part of a new centre announced by the prime minister.
The UK-CGIAR centre was launched by Rishi Sunak at a global food security summit hosted by Number 10 on Monday (20 November).
Mr Sunak said: “We’re launching a new UK-CGIAR centre to drive cutting edge research on flood tolerant rice, disease resistant wheat and much more. "These innovations will reach millions across the poorest countries as well as improving UK crop yields and driving down food prices.”
16 November 2023
Glyphosate reauthorised for further ten years in EU
The European Commission has confirmed it will reauthorise the weedkiller glyphosate for another 10 years, subject to certain new conditions and restrictions.
During a vote at the Appeal Committee, member states did not reach the required qualified majority to renew or reject its approval at the Appeal Committee.
In line with EU legislation and in the absence of the required majority in either direction, the Commission decided to renew glyphosate for a further ten years.
15 November 2023
UK needs independent food security committee, AIC says
New government farm support schemes weighted towards the environment and the countryside risk UK food security, a major new report suggests.
The independent report, commissioned by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) and launched at its annual conference, warns that none of the planned or ratified agricultural policies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are “food-centric”.
Its author, Marcus Bellet-Travers, of Anglia Ruskin University, is concerned it could make them hostile to food security and dietary-health policies.
10 November 2023
Land demand set to soar as need for feed, food and fuel grows
Fields equating to the size of Brazil's arable land will have to be set aside if the world's demand for food, feed, fuel and natural capital is to be reached, a new report has revealed.
According to the study, Striking the Balance: Catalysing a Sustainable Land Use Transition, by 2030 growing feed for livestock may account for around 70 per cent of all incremental arable land while crop production for human consumption will take 20 per cent with biofuel production needing the remaining 10 per cent.
The report, which has been published by global management firm McKinsey & Company, estimated that 70 to 80 million hectares of additional arable land will be required by the end of the decade.
8 November 2023
Climate proof plants a step closer after new protein root discovery
Climate proof crops are a step closer after researchers discovered a protein that seals plant roots to regulate the uptake of nutrients and water from the soil.
Researchers have identified new components of the lignin barrier in plant roots and the specific function of dirigent proteins (DPs), located in the root endodermis that control water and nutrient uptake.
The study, from the University of Nottingham, explains that this new knowledge could be used to engineer plants to be able to grow with less water and chemical fertilisers.
6 November 2023
Scientists to freeze six key UK crops to help safeguard food security
Scientists are deploying cryotechnology to help keep key UK crops secure at very cold temperatures in a bid to safeguard food security and improve yields.
The construction of the UK Crop Microbiome Cryobank (UK-CMCB) – the first publicly available resource of its kind anywhere in the world – is now complete after three years of research.
Scientists from the UK’s agricultural research institutes created the facility to safeguard future research and enable yield improvement for the six crops. The Cryobank hopes to facilitate the sustainable yield improvement of six major crops including barley, oats, oilseed rape, potato, sugar beet and wheat.
6 November 2023
House of Lords condemns government ‘neglect’ of horticulture sector
UK food security is being placed in jeopardy by the government’s lack of interest in the fruit and vegetable sectors, with producers struggling to make a return and the industry failing to attract new talent.
Those are among the conclusions of a new House of Lords report into UK horticulture, which says the industry has been “under-prioritised” and “unappreciated” by policymakers.
Lord Redesdale, committee chairman, urged Defra to “get on” with its promised review of fairness in the horticulture supply chain, and to do more to support long-term research and development, especially into robotics and automation.
3 November 2023
Natural bioherbicides show promise in tackling weeds
Could mint extracts be the secret ingredient to tackling resistant weeds, such as blackgrass and Italian ryegrass? Could they even be a glyphosate replacement?
That’s what a US-based start-up company, Harpe Bioherbicide Solutions, is hoping as it develops natural bioherbicides based on plant extracts, primarily from the menthus or mint family.
Harpe’s co-founder, Dr Chad Brommer, reviewed hundreds of plant extracts for potential herbicidal compounds, but narrowed the selection to those from mint, dill and caraway. These are being formulated into non-selective herbicides that can be sprayed using traditional farm equipment or drones.