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Grant boost for high impact CNAP research

Posted on 11 December 2013

The University of York’s Centre for Novel Agricultural Products has been awarded £10 million to fund research projects that have the potential to make a significant impact in both agriculture and the search for alternatives to fossil fuels.

York has won three of the six Strategic Longer and Larger (sLoLas) grants awarded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). They will fund three major research projects starting next year which will study ways to combat black-grass - an invasive weed that affects the UK’s cereal and oilseed rape crops; investigate the potential of viable co-products from oilseed rape and seek new ways of processing plant biomass as a replacement for fossil fuels. 

A group led by Professor Rob Edwards is focusing on ways of combating herbicide-resistant black-grass which causes serious problems in cereal and oilseed rape rotations. Control is becoming difficult, because black-grass can acquire an overarching mechanism that makes it resistant to all weed killers, and it is estimated that some 1.2 million ha of UK land is already infested with resistant black-grass. The BBSRC-HGCA Black-Grass Project will focus on understanding how multiple herbicide resistance arises and identifying ways in which it can be tackled in the wider environment. 

Professor Ian Bancroft’s research group is studying potentially valuable co-products that might be extracted from oilseed rape. As well as the primary oil product, a protein-rich feed for animals can be made from the crop to improve its commercial viability. The BBSRC Renewable Industrial Products from Rapeseed (RIPR) Programme will involve the study of new potential co-products from oilseed rape including vitamin E (tocopherol) and cholesterol lowering compounds (phytosterols) from the oil, as well as waxes from pod walls with aphid-repellent or medical properties, and other valuable compounds from stems. 

Research by a team of scientists led by Professors Simon McQueen-Mason and Neil Bruce is investigating how marine invertebrates including gribble and shipworms digest wood. The BBSRC Marine Wood Borer Enzyme Programme builds on research into wood-boring gribble led by the team as part of BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre. These marine animals eat a lot of wood, and understanding their digestive systems is paving the way to develop better enzymes and processes for making biofuels out of non-food woody biomass such a waste paper and straw.

Professor Ian Graham, CNAP Director said: “These awards show just how strong our strategic research portfolio in CNAP is, the outputs of these projects can make a real difference to society and we are pleased that the BBSRC are committed to funding this important work.”

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC’s Chief Executive, said: “This public funding offers long-term support to address major research challenges, while building research capacity in important areas and maximising economic and social benefits for the UK.”

“The vital knowledge generated by this research will help to address the threat of farmed-animal diseases, the health of an ageing population, and the need for more sustainable industries and energy sources.”

All three projects contain collaborations with partners from other UK institutions including: Rothamsted Research, Institute of Food Research, The Genome Analysis Centre, the Universities of Nottingham, York, Sheffield, Reading, Portsmouth and Cambridge. 

Notes to editors:

  • The Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) is an award winning strategic research centre based in the Department of Biology at the University of York. CNAP is dedicated to realising the potential of plants as renewable, low-cost factories that produce high-value chemicals and biofuels. Laboratory based discoveries are translated into practice in partnership with industry.

    For more information about CNAP visit www.york.ac.uk/biology/centrefornovelagriculturalproducts
  • BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

    Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £467m (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

    For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see www.bbsrc.ac.uk

    For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes

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