When the chips are down

An SRUC scientist is part of a new Cryobank project which will safeguard future research and facilitate the sustainable yield improvement of six major UK food crops - barley, oats, oil seed rape, potato, sugar beet and wheat.

Nicola Holden, Professor in Food Safety and leader of SRUC’s news Food Challenge Centre, has joined scientists from the UK’s foremost agricultural research institutes to create a new UK Crop Microbiome Cryobank (UK-CMCB).

Led by the international not-for-profit organisation CABI, in partnership with SRUC, Rothamsted Research and the John Innes Centre, the BBSRC-funded project will develop a ‘Noah’s Ark’ of UK microbes from crop systems that will form the first publicly available resource of its kind anywhere in the world.

Scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the James Hutton Institute will also be collaborating on the initiative, which will use state-of-the art cryo research techniques to preserve important crop microbiome samples from different soil types across the UK.

The UK-CMCB will provide a facility for researchers to source data and samples for their work, including living microbial material as well as genomic and metagenomic sequences (DNA) from different microbiome environments.

Microbiomes are all the microbes present in any one ecosystem - in this case those associated with the crop plant, whether they are present in the leaves, seeds and stems or in the bulk soil around the roots.

A beneficial microbiome results in a healthy plant and an improved crop yield and better-quality food.

Dr Holden, who is leading the genomics and bioinformatics team at SRUC and James Hutton Institute, said: “We are at a very exciting time in our understanding of microbiomes because of advances in deep sequencing capabilities, telling us not just about the composition of the microbiomes, but also informing on their functions.

“This resource will provide base-line data for how different crop types, and the soils they are grown in, impact the microbiome. Our ambition is to provide a comprehensive resource that will be used to optimise crop production systems.”

Dr Matthew Ryan, Curator of the Genetic Resource Collection at CABI, said: “By preserving these valuable crop microbial samples, from a ‘unique snapshot in time,’ we will generate a representative, very valuable and unique resource from key UK crop systems that will become a vital resource for scientific researchers for generations to come.

“We will be using UK-developed cryotechnology that uses liquid nitrogen to keep the samples secure at very cold temperatures. If you like, it is a ‘Noah’s Ark’ of UK microbes from crop systems and one that has many potential exciting uses.”

Posted by SRUC on 09/10/2020

Tags: Soil and crops, Food and Drink, Sustainability
Categories: Research