• Photos and videos from our trial sites

    Magnesium fertilizer trial site near Edinburgh, 26 April 2017 (Image by Diriba Kumssa)

    Magnesium fertilizer trial site at IBERS, Aberystwyth University, 25 April 2017 (Image by Diriba Kumssa)

    Magnesium fertilizer trial site at IBERS, Aberystwyth University, 26 June 2017 (Image by Diriba Kumssa)

    Spraying of MgSO4 solution on different ryegrass cultivars at the field trial site near Edinburgh, 26 April 2017

    (Video by Diriba Kumssa)

  • Talking magnesium at the Royal Welsh Show'

    Talking magnesium at the Royal Welsh Show

    Dr Beth Penrose

    A hot (31° C), sunny, and miraculously dry Royal Welsh Show allowed me to ask livestock farmers from around Wales and elsewhere in the UK about their knowledge of magnesium (Mg) deficiency in their herds and flocks.

    My name is Beth Penrose and I’m a postdoctoral researcher based at the University of Nottingham, working on the MAG-NET project. This project, funded by the Sustainable Agricultural Research and Innovation Club (SARIC), brings together soil geochemists, plant scientists, crop breeders, vets and fertiliser experts from British Geological Survey (co-PI Louise Ander), University of Nottingham (co-PI Martin Broadley), Aberystwyth University (co-PI Alan Lovatt) and a number of commercial companies to tackle the issue of Mg and other micronutrient deficiencies in ruminants, such as cows and sheep.

    Magnesium is important in ruminants for nerve and muscle function, bone formation and in biochemical processes and therefore Mg deficiency in ruminants can be a major problem. Chronic, low level Mg deficiency and mineral imbalances can affect the amount of meat and milk farmers can get from their cows and sheep, whereas acute, high level Mg deficiency (hypomagnesaemia) causes ‘grass tetany’ or ‘grass staggers’, where animals paddle their feet and blink excessively due to loss of nerve function, and which can be fatal if not treated. For farmers, losing animals is a big deal both personally and economically.

    By using a multidisciplinary approach, we hope to be able to develop strategies for combating Mg and other mineral micronutrient deficiencies from multiple angles. These include improved soil management and crop breeding for improved forage nutrition. As part of the project, we are conducting surveys into farmer awareness of hypomagnesaemia. During the show, I was based in Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) tent, and was able to get 75 farmers to answer a short questionnaire about their knowledge of Mg deficiency and what they are doing to prevent it in their animals. It also gave me a unique opportunity to have some really meaningful dialogue with farmers about their concerns about mineral deficiencies in general, which will help us optimise our project to give farmers as much useful information as possible.

    Alan Lovatt, a grass breeder from IBERS, a co-PI on the MAG-NET project, also gave a talk about the project to show-goers in the IBERS tent. This helped to increase awareness of the project and stimulated some interesting discussions between Alan, myself and farmers in the audience.

    After such a great time in sunny Builth Wells, it’s now time to roll out the questionnaire to the rest of the UK with the help of project partners from the veterinary sector. We’re hoping we have as positive a response from these farmers as we did at the show!

    If you have any questions please contact me at beth.penrose@nottingham.ac.uk, or to take part in the survey please click here.

  • BBSRC & NERC £4.7 million for science to benefit British farming

    The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) along with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and 12 industry partners are to fund six research projects to improve the sustainability of UK farming.

    The grants totalling £4.7M were funded in the first round of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC), which was developed by BBSRC and NERC, together with industry, to support innovative projects that will provide solutions to key challenges affecting the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.

    Among the funded studies is work to improve the drought tolerance of wheat, research to determine the best foodstuffs for ruminant animal health and production, and a project focused on optimising the use of buffer strips to enhance hydrology and water quality.

    Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: “These studies will help address important challenges for the UK’s farming industry, which is worth billions to our economy, and help progress towards sustainable agricultural systems for the future.

    “The collaboration between industry and the Research Councils as part of SARIC will streamline the translation of findings from these studies into tangible benefits for producers and consumers, and help us meet the challenge of sustainably feeding a growing world population.”

    Iain Gillespie, NERC Director of Science and Innovation, said: “In the 21st Century the global food system faces significant pressures, not least from world population growth and climate change. These projects will help equip the agriculture industry with the knowledge and expertise it needs to find sustainable and affordable ways of meeting these challenges.

    “By working with industry to identify big scientific questions and translate research into practical solutions, we can help ensure our world-leading science continues to deliver tangible benefits for our economy and society.”

    Industry partners pay a subscription fee to be part of SARIC.

    Having contributed to informing and defining the challenges for SARIC, the Club's industry members will continue to steer the programme, participate in funding decisions, and ultimately benefit from their involvement through early access to research and translation outcomes. This five year public-private partnership will result in approximately £10M being invested to address key challenges identified by industry.


    The funded projects are:

    • Increasing wheat drought tolerance and recovery throughout the life cycle through regulation of plant growth mechanisms – Professor Matthew Paul, Rothamsted Research
    • Future-proofing our breeding goals - Breeding for climate resilience in UK dairy systems – Professor Eileen Wall, Scotland’s Rural College
    • Magnesium Network (MAG-NET): Integrating Soil-Crop-Animal Pathways to Improve Ruminant Health – Professor Martin Broadley, The University of Nottingham working with colleagues at Aberystwyth University and NERC British Geological Survey
    • Impacts of different vegetation in riparian buffer strips on hydrology and water quality – Professor Adrian Collins, Rothamsted Research
    • Reduced Stomatal Density Wheat: New Prospects for Drought and Pathogen Resistance – Professor Julie Gray, The University of Sheffield working with colleagues at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany
    • Diverse forage mixtures to optimise ruminant animal production, nutrient use efficiency, environmental impact, biodiversity, and resilience – Professor Chris Reynolds, University of Reading, working with colleagues at Rothamsted Research.


    Further information:

    BBSRC Media Office

    E. press.office@bbsrc.ac.uk

    T. +44 1793 414694

    W. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2015/150728-pr-science-to-benefit-british-farming/

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