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University of Warwick Opens a £1.5 Million Crop Research Facility

At the University of Warwick, a laboratory has been established to use gene-editing technology to enhance the quality, hardiness, and sustainability of vegetable crops.

A £1.5 million facility called the Elizabeth Creak Horticultural Technology Centre (ECHTC), which also houses The Jim Brewster Laboratory, will utilize methods like gene-editing to enhance vegetable production. The research will help with the major global concerns of addressing climate change and feeding the world’s expanding population by addressing issues pertaining to disease resistance, crop productivity, adaptability to climate change, and nutritional value in horticulture plants.

The new Center expands Warwick’s already unrivaled competence in crops and plant breeding. It was made possible by charitable contributions from the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust and the estate of Jim Brewster, a research scientist at the old National Vegetable Research Station in Wellesbourne. The University of Warwick has a number of facilities for horticulture research and technology, including the ECHTC. Through its top-ranked collections of carrot, lettuce, and onion seeds as well as its joint responsibility for the brassica collections housed at the UK Vegetable Gene Bank (UKVGB) at the university’s Wellesbourne Campus, Warwick is already in charge of conserving the genetic diversity of vegetable crops. The establishment of the ECHTC will assist in advancing plant scientists’ comprehension of a variety of issues regarding plant development and continue to harness the rich resources of the UKVGB.

The Center will also instruct upcoming research scientists in vegetable tissue culture and gene editing methods, and PhD candidates specializing in agricultural science will be given Jim Brewster Scholarships.

We urgently need to develop and harness skills and expertise to help us improve food systems, adapt to changing environments, and assist in solving growing global problems, according to Murray Grant, the Elizabeth Creak Chair in Food Security at the University of Warwick. “Food is one of the top issues on a global agenda, and in the year that the Genetic Technology Bill is going through the UK Parliament and opening up our ability to use gene editing technology,” he said.

“Gene editing is a technique that allows scientists to make minor changes to an existing gene or genes that might bestow beneficial features in plants, such as disease resistance or improved drought tolerance. The plant’s genetic “blueprint” is the only thing that these modifications aim to modify; no outside material is included. The lengthy process of conventional plant breeding, in which varieties are crossed over many generations to attain the same aim, can be shortened through gene editing.

“To improve disease resistance, boost nutritional value, and raise resilience to climate change, researchers at the Elizabeth Creak Horticultural Technology Centre will use precision genome editing technologies on important UK horticulture crops. Growing crops that require less pesticides and water has major environmental benefits in addition to higher yields.”

“A new research center and student scholarships have been established at Warwick thanks to these kind donations,” said Miriam Gifford, head of the school of life sciences at the University of Warwick. “The Elizabeth Creak Horticultural Technology Center will have a significant effect. It will hasten the development of robust and more sustainable agricultural types from humankind’s understanding of plant production and responses to stress. A PhD student will receive a much-needed annual top up award from the Jim Brewster Scholarships, which will assist pay for costs like travel to conferences.”

Image provided by The University of Warwick 

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