Friday, 17 May 2013

NIABTAG Visit to the Gene Pool

Monday the 13th May was another day to remember on my Nuffield adventure.  My visit was to the HQ of NIABTAG near Cambridge, who just the evening before had been on Countryfile with a brand new development in wheat breeding!  I was met by Bill Clarke, to whom I am very grateful, he spent at least 3 hours showing me around the site and detailing the very valuable work that is being undertaken at the centre.  Bill explained about NIAB, what it does with the recommended lists, the Innovation farms and the wider extension work to the farmer members.  The membership only make up about 10% of the income stream, with the balance being from commercial work or contract work from industry or the BBSRC.  We spoke about wheat growing and the challenges that we face trying to produce more from less, with less.  How is that supposed to happen we can't work miracles, especially when you look at the potential to ban some or all triazoles from the fungicide battle.
Something that does resemble a kind of miracle is the work that Sarah and Emma are doing in the labs to multiply up the engineered seeds.  It was fascinating to hear them speak with such knowledge and passion about a subject that is quite alien to me and so very specialised.  It's great to know that people like this our working on our behalf making our industry better and more productive.    

It was a great visit and I was allowed to see first hand the stages that went into the creation of the synthetic wheat featured on Country File the previous day, demonstrating a potential yield increase of up to 30 % over our existing varieties.  Although the work is a long way from becoming available on the farm, the genetic engineers and plant breeders are working hard to help feed our growing world population, of that I am sure.

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