The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted some fragilities in the agriculture system, but it now brings a unique opportunity to adopt long-term measures to promote healthier diets, strengthen collaboration against public health, and encourage farmers to produce a wider range of food.
New Crop Science Centre opens in Cambridge, using research to improve global agriculture
Benchmark Services writes:
It’s safe to say 2020 and COVID-19 has been a real test for businesses and industries, especially the agricultural sector. Agriculture is an important contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions and therefore, faces societal pressure to reduce climate impact. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted some fragilities in the agriculture system, but it now brings a unique opportunity to adopt long-term measures to promote healthier diets, strengthen collaboration against public health, and encourage farmers to produce a wider range of food.
Doing so, agricultural research could play a vital role in transforming food systems and making them more resilient. But with rumours of a second national lockdown, or at least stricter restrictions, there are worrying concerns on how our national agricultural systems and organisations are going to cope.
That’s why an alliance between the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences and the crop research organisation NIAB has opened a new Crop Science Centre in Cambridge, with an aim to achieve this goal and improve farmers’ yield sustainably by translating research.
International collaborations with research partners across the globe are planned to ensure Cambridge’s world of science is translated into a global agricultural impact.
University of Cambridge’s Professor Giles Oldroyd is the inaugural director of this huge project to replace inorganic fertilisers. Then, research taking place at the state-of-the-art facility on the NIAB site, has a project of their own, focusing on reducing agricultural reliance on such chemical inputs, while maximising crop productivity, particularly for the world’s poorest farmers.
Professor Oldroyd said: “This year we have seen how fragile our global systems are. The Covid-19 crisis is exposing another 120 million people to starvation worldwide, while crop yields here in the UK are suffering from changes in our climate.
“We need lasting solutions for stable and secure food production, but also need to improve sustainability in agriculture. We are excited to be opening this new centre, which can drive the transformative change we so desperately need.”
Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said: “Urgent action is required to sustainably provide enough quality food for the world’s growing population. By combining our expertise in fundamental plant science with NIAB’s long experience in crop improvement, I am confident that we will make progress towards this vital goal.”
The Crop Science Centre will serve as a global hub of sorts for crop science research and a base with open opportunities to cola with research partners from around the world, to ensure all research and evidence is shared globally to expand the impact and maximise results. If successful, it will hopefully maintain stable ground for the agricultural sector to lie on whilst we ride out the uncertainty of the pandemic.
Focusing on improving the sustainability and equity of global food production, it will give our scientists a real understanding of how plants work at the most fundamental level to encourage the change in food production we desperately need.
I guess we can say that one positive side-effect of the Coronavirus outbreak has revealed the urgency needed to transform the agriculture sector. Hopefully, this Crop Science Centre will be a huge step in the reconstruction that will follow to provide better nutrition and health for us all.
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