- A £2.45 million donation from the Michael Uren Foundation will fund research on soil microbial communities at Imperial College London.
- The research aims to address the challenge of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity loss.
- The project will focus on optimizing whole soil microbiomes to suppress crop pathogens.
- Dr. Bonnie Waring, Senior Lecturer in Ecosystems Ecology at Imperial, will lead the research.
- The project will last three years, beginning in the 2023/24 academic year.
Imperial College London has received a £2.45 million donation from the Michael Uren Foundation to fund groundbreaking research on soil microbial communities. The research aims to tackle one of humanity’s most significant challenges: how to sustainably feed the world’s growing population without causing further damage to natural ecosystems.
Addressing Agricultural Challenges
The project, led by Dr. Bonnie Waring, Senior Lecturer in Ecosystems Ecology at Imperial, will focus on optimizing soil microbiomes to suppress crop diseases. “We are pioneering a new way of approaching agriculture, environmental management, and biodiversity improvement,” said Dr. Waring. The research aims to maximize crop yields while minimizing chemical inputs like pesticides and fertilizers.
Soil Microbiomes and Biodiversity
Soil microbes constitute most of Earth’s biodiversity and control nutrient and energy flows within ecosystems. Recent studies have shown that certain soil microbes can suppress crop diseases. The project will build on this knowledge to develop reliable microbial interventions for agriculture and ecosystem restoration.
Team and Timeline
The project will begin in the 2023/24 academic year and last three years. The funding will be used to hire five post-doctoral research associates and two research technicians. Insights from the research will inform the creation of a digital toolkit for improved land management worldwide.
Legacy of Philanthropy
The late Sir Michael Uren, an Imperial alumnus, remains the college’s most generous benefactor. “We are proud to continue Sir Michael Uren’s legacy of philanthropy at Imperial,” said the Trustees of the Michael Uren Foundation. “Dr. Bonnie Waring’s project can potentially protect biodiversity and deliver food security to communities worldwide.”
Silwood Park Campus
The research will be conducted at Silwood Park, Imperial’s rural campus, one of Britain’s foremost centers for ecology, evolution, and conservation research. The campus is being developed as a new hub for research and innovation in ecology and planetary health.