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University involved in international food crop study to address Global Challenges

Efforts to improve sustainable crop development are being spearheaded by a collaboration between the University of Leicester, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the University of Addis Ababa.

Researchers will work together to help enhance crop diversity for vulnerable populations. Their research will focus on the Ethiopian banana in order to better understand the crop species and its genetics. The crop has great potential for improving food security in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, especially in areas affected by drought.

Their work is a part of an initiative to address key global development challenges in securing future food supplies.  The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is leading a collaboration with the Medical Research Council (MRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to invest over £16M through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Foundation Awards for Global Agriculture and Food Systems Research.

'The project “Modelling and genomics resources to enhance exploitation of the sustainable and diverse Ethiopian starch crop Enset' is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund under a Foundation Award for Global Agricultural and Food Systems Research from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison, of our Department of Genetics and Genome Biology, said: “Our exciting interdisciplinary project seeks to provide the foundation knowledge to help enable the exploitation of a sustainable and diverse Ethiopian starch crop known as Enset or Ethiopian banana, to support livelihoods in Africa.

“In collaboration with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the University of Addis Ababa, we will integrate genomic sequence, molecular diversity, pathology, tissue culture and cytogenetic data, with agroecological, physical trait and pest and disease incidence data derived from field research and farmer interview data from Ethiopia. The work builds on extensive expertise in Leicester firstly in working with Ethiopian scientists on crop species, and secondly on the genetics of banana.”

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