William Thomas

Clone of Sustainability Research Platform at Balruddery Farm

A new experimental research platform is being established at Balruddery Farm for long-term studies on arable sustainability.Photograph of a poppy field

The overall goal is to test whether or not potential solutions for sustainable agriculture arising from the current RERAD workpackages, actually result in improved arable biodiversity, resilience, crop productivity and yield stability at a commercial, field-scale over at least four rotation cycles (>20 years).

To do this, we will design a sustainable cropping system based on existing research at SCRI that optimises inputs, yield, biodiversity and ecosystem processes. The effect of this ‘sustainable’ system on long-term trends in yield and system health will be tested by comparison with current commercial practice.

Biodiversity

Photograph of sub-arctic willowA major challenge is to explore and understand plant biodiversity in natural and agricultural systems. Germplasm collections are central to these efforts and provide a means to understand the evolution, domestication and conservation of wild species, landraces and cultivars. They contain superior alleles for use in breeding and inform conservation policy. We will focus on clarifying the relationships between existing groups of species, investigating the link between sequence variation, recombination and linkage disequilibrium and quantifying biological diversity of native and endangered species for conservation purposes.

Genetics and Breeding

Photograph of Ben Klibreck blackcurrantsGenetic knowledge is a pre-requisite for the deployment of scientific breeding methods in crop improvement. Our strategy therefore is to produce new cultivars better adapted to growing conditions and end uses through the application of genetic research in collaboration with appropriate partners.

Our major focus is on barley, soft fruit (blackcurrant and raspberry) and potato. These crops each provide different challenges for genetic analysis and application to crop improvement. Barley is a diploid inbreeder, blackcurrants and raspberries are diploid outbreeders and potato is an autotetraploid outbreeder. Barley is propagated through seed whereas the other crops are reproduced vegetatively.

For all these crops, we evaluate the genetic variation within germplasm collections and apply the appropriate genome and gene expression analyses. From these, molecular breeding methods are developed and deployed, either through collaborations with commercial sponsors or through the release of enhanced germplasm.

See the crop-specific pages below for more information.

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