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Establishing a centre for crop health and protection in the UK

Breakthroughs in science and technology are helping overcome global food production challenges and changing the worlds’ agriculture. A new Centre for Applied Crop Science is ensuring the UK has the necessary capital needed to deliver a cutting edge platform to support agriculture in the UK and beyond. CABI is the lead partner in three main work strands namely: Novel control discovery and implementation, Collection of biotic crop pests, and Horizon scanning and international development.

Finding a biocontrol agent for Crassula

Crassula helmsii is an invasive water weed that dominates still or slow-flowing water bodies. It’s spreading throughout the UK and has the potential to out-compete native flora and reduce oxygen levels by forming dense mats. Management of this species can be very challenging, with chemical and mechanical options limited. CABI were commissioned by the UK government to investigate the possibility of controlling the weed using biological control. This includes testing by our scientists to ensure that any potential agent is safe for release.

Controlling floating pennywort in a safe and sustainable way

Floating pennywort is an invasive aquatic plant that can over-run water bodies in the UK, and is threatening habitats, native plants, fish and insects. Also a problem across much of Europe, this plant has rapid growth and can regenerate from small fragments. Management is mainly limited to mechanical clearance which is expensive and often ineffective. Through comprehensive host range testing, this project aims to identify the safest and most effective biocontrol agent to keep the plant in check.

Finding a biocontrol for Himalayan raspberry

Yellow Himalayan raspberry is a major threat to native Hawaiian forests. A single plant can grow into a 4m tall impenetrable thicket, and its aggressive growth and rapid colonization enables it to outcompete native species. Current control methods are both labour intensive and costly. The aim of this project is to find biological control agents (both arthropod and fungal) from the plant’s native Indian and/or Chinese region of the Himalayas to control its spread in the Hawaiian introduced range.

Insects as a source of protein

Global demand for animal-sourced foods is accelerating. Fishmeal and crops such as soya are key ingredients in animal feeds but are not ecologically or economically sustainable. Insect protein presents a viable alternative. The PROTEINSECT project is exploring fly larva (maggots), which are nutritious and can be mass produced at low cost, as animal feed. It will develop and optimize maggot production systems, determine safety and quality criteria and evaluate the performance of protein extracts.

MIRRI: improving access to microbial resources, services and data

Microorganisms are vital natural resources for biotechnology; they help advance human health, improve food security and provide innovative solutions to research and development. The European microbial landscape is fragmented and resources or data are hard to find. The Microbial Resource Research Infrastructure (MIRRI) is resolving this; integrating the main microbial domain Biological Resource Centres and their supporting services and data into a novel pan-European research infrastructure.