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Plant scientists gather in Cambridge to advance collaborations in global food security research

Plant scientists and three major funders who are working together to sustainably increase crop yields for developing countries met in Cambridge this week to further their collaborations. They included scientists from the University of Cambridge’s Sainsbury Laboratory (SLCU) and Department of Plant Sciences, Lancaster University, The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) in Norwich and the John Innes Centre. With funding from Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development (DFID), these scientists are developing innovations that will increase productivity and empower farmers across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.   Founder of the Gatsby Charitable Foundation Lord Sainsbury, welcomed Bill Gates (Co-Chair of the Bill & read more…

Overlap in lateral root and nodule development brings self-fertilising cereals one step closer

A vision of creating crops that do not need chemical fertilisers is one step closer thanks to the recent discovery of a substantial overlap in the developmental programme plants use for lateral roots and nitrogen-fixing nodules. The ultimate goal of the scientists is to transfer nitrogen fixation into cereals. This aim will benefit those people who have least access to food, particularly smallholder farmers in sub-Sahara Africa, by giving them improved yields of food crops under low-cost and low-input farming systems. This latest discovery builds on the scientists’ work deciphering the symbiotic communications occurring between plants and bacteria when they form a beneficial nitrogen-fixing relationship, best known in legumes like read more…

Giles Oldroyd to lead new Crop Science Centre

The University of Cambridge has elected Giles Oldroyd to the Russel R Geiger Professorship of Crop Science, leading the new Crop Science Centre, which is a partnership between the University of Cambridge and NIAB. As Director of the new Centre, Professor Oldroyd will be based in the Crop Science Building at NIAB’s new headquarters on Lawrence Weaver Road, Cambridge, opening in 2020. Currently a research group leader at the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU), Professor Oldroyd leads an international programme focused on engineering nitrogen-fixing cereals funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation called the Engineering Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa (ENSA) project. His team aims to understand the signalling and developmental processes read more…

New receptor involved in symbiosis between legumes and nitrogen-fixing rhizobia identified

Legumes are able to grow in nitrogen-poor soils due to their ability to engage in symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. There is a great interest in using the knowledge about this symbiosis, to enable transfer to other non-symbiotic plants. An international research team has come a step further to understanding this complex biological process. Microbes, whether beneficial or harmful, play an important role in all organisms, including plants. The ability to monitor the surrounding microbes is therefore crucial for plant survival. For example, the roots of a soil-growing plant are surrounded by a microbial-rich environment and have therefore evolved sophisticated surveillance mechanisms. Unlike most other plants, legumes, such as beans, peas read more…

Coordinating approaches to crop engineering

The Crop Engineering Consortium is an initiative to coordinate approaches to crop engineering for the benefit of agricultural projects being run for food security and the global good in Europe, USA and Africa. The CEC was originally conceived as an alignment of strategies between three of the largest Gates Foundation-sponsored crop engineering initiatives, ENSA, C4 Rice and RIPE. The support network has since been extended to include researchers from 18 institutions with a shared interest in tackling complex engineering tasks in crops. Aligning the use of Golden Gate cloning technology between members of the CEC allowed for significant acceleration of all projects through rapid construct assembly. The CEC now provides a gateway to the surrounding technologies of gene read more…

SynBio for Pan-African Scientists

“I am going to use it again and again. The way you deliver the course is brilliant!” - Biniam Ghebreslassie, Jomo Kenyatta University The Synbio workshop is a collaboration event that was created through the ENSA’s Crop Engineering Consortium, funded by the Gates Foundation and made possible through the BecA-JIC Alliance. The 2015 training workshop was hosted at the BecA-ILRI Hub in Nairobi, Kenya. The project focuses on provides training in Golden Gate cloning; a recently developed method to assemble multiple DNA fragments simultaneously and directionally in a single tube reaction. This method has reduced months or years of work down into a matter of days and can generate multiple constructs read more…

Technical Golden Gate Training at the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa Hub.

“I really liked how the course was set out it involved a lot of fun activities. The instructors passed the message in a clear manner. I look forward to applying the skills learned in my project.” - Eric Magembe, Senior research associate, International Potato Center (CIP) Golden Gate cloning is a method to assemble multiple DNA fragments simultaneously and directionally in a single tube reaction. The modular system of DNA assembly allows the rapid construction of gene expression cassettes from basic parts and the hierarchical assembly of these units into multi-gene constructs for plant transformation. This method can reduce months or years of work to a matter of days and read more…

ASSET 2015, Kigali, Rwanda

I feel like I am now empowered and I am fully aware of situations and approaches to use to be able to move forward positively. – Pauline Asami, BecA-ILRI hub ASSET (Agricultural Scientist Support Exchange Team) programme was funded in 2015 by the ENSA project that seeks to promote agricultural development through graduate student capacity building. Additionally, ASSET aims to increase effectiveness of agricultural scientists in the United Kingdom as well as Sub-Saharan Africa by forming lasting collaborative links between the two areas. The programme pairs students from the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa by assessing areas of study and identifying students with similar interests. Both students are then encouraged and read more…

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