Agri Business

Coming soon: Cereals that use nitrogen better, pollute less

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 17, 2018

The ambitious initiative will get a funding of £10 million through the Newton Bhabha Fund, UK; Biotechnology and Biological Research Council, UK; and the Department of Biotechnology

Project driven by India, UK will explore new varieties of cereals

New varieties of cereals which use nitrogen more efficiently and thus produce more and pollute less could be real in the near future.

A global consortia has started exploring natural variations of cereals and basic research in model plants to deliver new varieties of cereals with enhance nitrogen use. The project is driven by a team of researchers from India and the United Kingdom.

Traditional farming has been tapping nitrogen fixation as a key booster in crop yields. The new partnership also aims to turn out varieties that could reduce greenhouse emissions and make farming more profitable and sustainable.

The ambitious initiative will get a funding of £10 million through the Newton Bhabha Fund, UK; Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), UK; and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the Government of India.

As part of the effort, four new Virtual Joint Centers in Agricultural Nitrogen will be created. The centres comprise multiple research organisations in India and the UK, with each receiving a co-investment of approximately £2.5 million. These are delivered in partnership with BBSRC, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the DBT.

The Cambridge-India Network for Translational Research in Nitrogen (CINTRIN), one of the four centres, is led by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in the UK and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India.

It also brings together the Department of Plant Sciences and Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge, the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), India, ADAS UK Ltd. and agri-IT specialist KisanHub.

The launch meeting of CINTRIN was held recently in Cambridge, UK, which was attended by all the partners of the consortium and a memorandum of agreement (MoA) was signed between ICRISAT and DBT on July 8 for this research.

“The overarching aim of CINTRIN is to improve not only the income and livelihood of farmers by reducing the input cost, but also to save the environment by minimising the negative impact of excessive use of fertilizers,” says Rajeev Gupta, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT, who is leading the Indian team of CINTRIN.

“The natural variation for nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) will be studied in diverse germplasm of wheat, sorghum, pearl millet and foxtail millet. The findings will be applied to develop new breeding lines with enhanced NUE. CINTRIN will also use model plants such as Arabidopsis and Brachypodium for basic research which will be translated into crops in the future,” he says.

NIAB Director of Genetics and Breeding Alison Bentley explains: “The CINTRIN partners will translate developmental biology research into innovation in nitrogen use by Indian farmers, by connecting developmental research, crop breeding, agritechnology and extension work. This will be enhanced by easily accessible data-driven methods of technology transfer, developed by India and UK-based company, KisanHub.”

Published on July 17, 2016

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