New partnership to optimize use of nitrogen in cereal crops

Launch meeting of CINTRIN in Cambridge, attended by all partners of consortium. Photo: ICRISAT

Launch meeting of CINTRIN in Cambridge, attended by all partners of consortium. Photo: ICRISAT

A team of researchers from India and the United Kingdom (UK) have come together to develop new cereal crop varieties, that use nitrogen efficiently, which in turn, will reduce greenhouse gas 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) (US$13,084,500) 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), UK and the DBT. The Centers comprise of multiple research organizations in India and the UK, with each center receiving a co-investment of approximately £2.5 million (UD$3,271,125).

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), UK and ICRISAT – India. It also brings together the Department of Plant Sciences and Sainsbury laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK; the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), India; the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), India; ADAS UK Ltd., UK; and the agri-IT specialist KisanHub, located in Cambridge, UK and Pune, India.

The launch meeting of CINTRIN was held during end of June at Cambridge and attended by all partners of the consortium. Following this, the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between ICRISAT and DBT on 8 July 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.

Dr Alison Bentley, Director of Genetics and Breeding, NIAB 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 the 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, The Sainsbury Laboratory, 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.

Project: The Cambridge-India Network for Translational Research in Nitrogen (CINTRIN) Investor: Newton Bhabha Fund, UK (Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), UK and Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India) Partners: UK: National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), ADAS UK Ltd, KisanHub, Department of Plant Sciences and Sainsbury laboratory, University of Cambridge India: Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), ICRISAT CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Cereals

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