Exploiting phenology and adaptation to improve nitrogen use in wheat

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


The Indo-UK Centre for the improvement of Nitrogen use Efficiency in Wheat (INEW) will coordinate activities, harmonise protocols, provide training opportunities for early career scientists and generate a unique range of genetic material, skills and research facilities. Significant economic and environmental impacts will be achieved through the sustainable intensification of wheat production, which will reduce the use of nitrogen fertilisers by farmers, thus reducing crop production costs for farmers and the release of reactive nitrogen into the environment.

Nitrogen is the major agronomic input that determines the performance and productivity of crops, in both rain fed systems in the UK and Western Europe and the irrigated north western plains of India, as well as resource poor marginal eco-systems of eastern plains in India. This has consequences for production costs, with nitrogen being the major production cost for both Indian and UK farmers, and for the environmental footprint of the crop, with nitrogen contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and to contamination of ground water. In the UK, farmers applied over 1m tonnes of nitrogen fertiliser in 2012, with a cost of £800m. Similarly, India is the second largest consumer of nitrogen fertilizers in the world after China. A total of 12 million tonnes of fertilizer nitrogen was consumed in India during 2012-13 (about 15% of total world use) at an estimated cost of £3000m. The use of nitrogen fertiliser also has a global impact in terms of pollution of ground waters and generation of greenhouse gases.

Wheat is the major staple crop in the UK, with between 12 and 15 million tonnes being grown annually. Similarly, between 90 and 95 million tonnes of wheat are produced annually in India, mainly in the north-western plains. The newthe centre brings together the major wheat research providers in the region: ICAR-IIWBR (Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research) which has responsibility for delivering improved wheat varieties to Indian growers, ICAR-IARI, New Delhi (Indian Agricultural Research Institute), NRCPB, New Delhi (National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology), PAU, Ludhiana (Punjab Agriculture University) and BISA, Ludhiana (Bourlag Institute for South Asia). All Indian partners have current research programmes on nitrogen use in wheat. Strong collaborations are already in place between the Indian partners, and between partners from India and the UK. Professor Peter Shewry, Rothamsted Research, is leading the initiative and the UK partners include researchers at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, University of Nottingham, University of Bristol and the John Innes Centre.


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