"Give a man a reputation as an early riser, and he can sleep ’til noon." Mark Twain
The uplift in cattle prices of recent weeks slowed in week ended 11th May read more
With more new season lambs entering the market, the dynamics of the trade have started to change read more
Provisional data for April milk deliveries of approximately 1,111m litres are 93m litres (7.7%) down on the previous year read more
In April, the DAPP averaged 160.9p/kg, almost 4p up on the month. At the same time, the average retail price came down by a small amount read more
The GB weekly average price fell by £7.68/t to £295.35/t and the free-buy average fell by £22.02/t to £368.39/t. read more
The first USDA estimates for world production in 2013-14 forecast record maize and wheat production, citing larger planted areas and a rebound in yields from the US (maize) and the Former Soviet Union (wheat) read more
The USDA has released its first soyabean supply and demand estimates for the new season read more
UK malting barley export prices are at €245/t FOB (spring, South Coast) w/e 11th April. read more
The latest National Statistics produced by Defra on the activity of UK hatcheries and poultry slaughterhouses. read more
USDA’s latest quarterly stocks report, released on 28th September, estimated US maize stocks (at 1st September) at 25.1m t, down 12% on the same point in 2011 and the lowest since 2004. read more
Incoming director and chief executive of JIC Professor Dale Sanders discusses with Iona Walton how he plans to improve dialogue between scientists and farmers
The UK has one of the best agricultural industries in the world but it lags behind the US and potentially China in terms of its relationship with the scientific community.
But when Professor Dale Sanders takes up his position as director and chief executive of the John Innes Centre (JIC) on 1st September he plans to improve the dialogue between scientists and farmers through a series of conferences and meetings.
“Research institutes in some other countries are better funded and have a greater strategic remit than those in the UK,” says Prof Sanders, who is the head of the Department of Biology at the University of York.
“A small number of institutes in the UK – JIC, Rothamsted Research and the Scottish Crop Research Institute among them – are uniquely poised between university research and end users and need to focus on brokering better communication.”
A leading authority on mechanisms for the transport of chemical elements across cell membranes in plants, Prof Sanders says that the continuation of renowned fundamental research will remain the top priority at JIC under his leadership, and that this provides the best foundation for development of its user interface.
“We need to establish what scientists are capable of delivering and what farmers need,” he explains. “The agricultural industry must seek sustainability through embracing new technology and approaches.”
Prof Sanders believes Western Europe has failed to act on the opportunities that GM technology offers, but the tide of public opinion might finally be turning.
“The indications are that this Government may take a more proactive stance regarding the GM debate,” he says. “My hope is that GM gets looked at on a case-by-case basis with rationality at the core of decision making as it offers huge benefits in terms of environment and human health.”
Organisers of the trial plot of GM potatoes planted on a farm in Norfolk this June explained that UK potato growers spray crops 10-15 times a year. If the research is deemed a success, the amount of chemicals entering the environment would be reduced, as would the carbon dioxide generated by the tractors.
“I work on the biofortification of cereals,” says Prof Sanders. “Between 30-40% world population has zinc deficiency (the fifth leading risk factor for disease in the developing world) but we have found ways – using GM technology – to express zinc transporters in cereals. Why would anyone want to turn this down? We need also to be able to enhance nutrient and water use efficiency. It is often overlooked that the world’s supply of phosphate will run out in 50 years; we need to breed plants that need less.”
Prof Sanders says that while advocates of organic production claim it is a sustainable farming system, if you look at the demand for food on a global level, organic production cannot feed today’s world population, let alone nine billion people in 30 years.
“There’s no one answer to global food security,” he says. “Scientists, economists and sociologists must work together to establish sustainable ways of increasing production despite other conflicting demands, such as urbanisation and the interest in biorenewables.
“Alongside GM we can use molecular markers for traditional breeding, for example selecting genes of interest and breeding them into lines that grow in particular conditions. It’s time to use everything in the toolbox.
“JIC scientists – who have established international acclaim for world-leading basic research – can help to shape the future of our world through contributing to the development of higher quality or disease resistant crops to improve food security, and by discovering new antibiotics from microbe studies.”
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