A team of researchers from India and the United Kingdom have come together to develop new cereal crop varieties that use nitrogen efficient that in turn will reduce greenhouse emissions and make farming more profitable and sustainable. The partnership will explore natural variations of cereals and basic research in model plants to deliver new varieties of cereals with enhanced nitrogen use efficiency.
With funding of £10 million (GBP) through the Newton Bhabha Fund, UK; Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), UK; and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the Government of India, four new Virtual Joint Centers in Agricultural Nitrogen will be created. These are delivered in partnership with BBSRC, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the DBT. The Centers comprise of multiple research organizations in India and the UK, with each center receiving a co-investment of approximately £2.5M.
The Cambridge-India Network for Translational Research in Nitrogen (CINTRIN), one of the four centres, is led by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in the UK and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India. It also brings together the Department of Plant Sciences and Sainsbury laboratory, University of Cambridge, the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), India, ADAS UK Ltd. and agri-IT specialist KisanHub.
The launch meeting of CINTRIN was held recently in Cambridge, UK, which was attended by all the partners of the consortium and a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between ICRISAT and DBT on July 8, 2016 for this research.
“The overarching aim of CINTRIN is to improve not only the income and livelihood of farmers by reducing the inputs cost, but also to save the environment by minimizing the negative impacts of excessive use of fertilizers,” emphasized Dr Rajeev Gupta, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT, who is leading the Indian team of CINTRIN.
“The natural variation for nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) will be studied in diverse germplasm of wheat, sorghum, pearl millet and foxtail millet. The findings will be applied to develop new breeding lines with enhanced NUE. CINTRIN will also use model plants such as Arabidopsis and Brachypodium for basic research which will be translated into crops in the future,” added Dr Gupta.
NIAB Director of Genetics and Breeding Dr Alison Bentley explains: “The CINTRIN partners will translate developmental biology research into innovation in nitrogen use by Indian farmers, by connecting developmental research, crop breeding, agritechnology and extension work. This will be enhanced by easily accessible data-driven methods of technology transfer, developed by India and UK-based company, KisanHub.”
“We want to promote a new understanding of the science associated with optimization of crop nitrogen use, built on exciting discoveries in model plant species which have the potential to revolutionize the way we think about the nitrogen requirement of crops,” said Dr Bentley.
Professor Ottoline Leyser, Director of The Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge said, “We are excited to be participating in CINTRIN as this sort of collaboration is essential for our research to contribute to solving the pressing problems facing agriculture.”
The initiative will build on established research links between NIAB, the University of Cambridge and research institutes in India. Exchanges in personnel between India and the UK via CINTRIN will enhance the skills of the next generation of plant technologists and provide a standard for building capacity in fundamental plant sciences and translation into germplasm and agronomic outputs in both countries.