A facility using gene-editing technology to improve quality, resilience and sustainability of vegetable crops has opened at Warwick University.
The Elizabeth Creak Horticultural Technology Centre is a £1.5 million facility which will use cutting edge techniques such as gene-editing to improve vegetable crops. It includes the state-of-the-art contains Jim Brewster Laboratory.
Researchers will address issues relating to disease resistance, crop yield, adaptability to climate change and nutritional value in horticultural plants – helping with the key global challenges of climate change and feeding the world’s growing population.
The centre is funded by the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust and the estate of Jim Brewster – a research scientist at the former National Vegetable Research Station in Wellesbourne. It adds to Warwick’s global expertise in crops and plant breeding.
Warwick already has responsibility for conserving genetic diversity of vegetable crops through world-leading collections of carrot, lettuce and onion seed, and joint responsibility for brassica collections hosted by the UK Vegetable Gene Bank.
The creation of the centre will help further scientists’ understanding of a range of questions about plant growth and continue to harness the rich resources of the UKVGB – including by gene-editing.
The centre will also train future research scientists in vegetable tissue culture and gene editing techniques, with Jim Brewster Scholarships awarded to PhD students working in the area of crop science.
Murray Grant, Elizabeth Creak chair in food security at Warwick University, said: “We have a pressing need to grow and harness skills and expertise to help us improve food systems, adapt to changing environments and help solve growing global problems.
“Gene editing is a process by which scientists, using prior knowledge, can make small modifications to an existing gene or genes which can confer valuable traits in plants, such as disease resistance or enhanced drought tolerance.
“These changes simply target the plant’s genetic blueprint without introducing any foreign material. Gene editing can shorten the long process of traditional plant breeding where varieties are crossed over many generations to achieve the same goal.”
“Researchers at the Elizabeth Creak Horticultural Technology Centre will be applying precision genetic editing approaches to key UK horticulture crops to improve disease resistance, enhance nutritional value and increase resilience to climate change.”