A new facility to assist advances in crop science is taking shape in the Norfolk countryside.
The field experimental station at Church Farm, Bawburgh, will allow scientists at the John Innes Centre to carry out ground-breaking research in crop improvements.
Bringing together lab and field research in one location will further research in understanding how genes control plant growth in the field.
The aim is to create tools for plant breeders to produce new varieties that are more reliable, nutritious and resilient to pests and diseases.
Cathy Mumford, who leads the field experimental team at the John Innes Centre, explains why the new facility is needed.
“It means researchers can investigate crop genetics and their effects in an environment in which farmers would grow their crops, where every season is different, unlike a glass house or controlled environment.”
“Researchers will be able to benefit from lab and field facilities that are side by side, and there will be a range of facilities under one roof.”
The 1700sq.m building includes two laboratories, climate-controlled grain storage, office space for six staff, meeting rooms and storage space for agricultural equipment.
Most of the funding for the £4.3m facility comes from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with a contribution from the John Innes Foundation.
Research facilities include a plant processing “dirty” laboratory where scientists can process crop samples taken from the trials fields, a “clean” laboratory which will provide access to high grade scientific facilities; and freezer storage for plant tissue samples down to minus 80degC.
The facility is central to the John Innes Centre strategy to deliver BBSRC-funded research on plant health, genes in the environment and designing future wheat, a cross institute programme spanning eight research institutes and universities.
Much of the land associated with the site is farmed by Morley Farms Ltd a commercial arm of the Morley Agricultural Foundation which supports farming in the East of England by funding agricultural research and educational projects.