New P3 agri-tech centre launched to tackle global plant and soil challenges

5th Mar 2015

Tackling food security issues around the world will be the aim of a new research centre launched at the University of Sheffield.

The newly formed P3 Centre of Excellence for Translational Plant and Soil Science will take world-class bench-top research to the field to solve many of the problems currently faced by plant and soil biology.

The agri-tech centre will investigate issues such as how to feed our rapidly expanding global population whilst improving agricultural sustainability and securing crop protection against pests and disease.

Benefiting from investment of more than £8.6m by the University in upgrading existing facilities and the recruitment of new academic staff and P3 research fellows, the translational centre encompasses the wide breadth of internationally-recognised plant and soil science expertise within the University of Sheffield with more than 100 researchers spread across 27 research groups.

Professor Duncan Cameron, Professor of Plant and Soil Biology and co-director of P3, said: "P3 unites research across the University into a single dedicated centre which allows us to exploit our fundamental intellectual capital in agriculture right from the cell to the ecosystem and atmosphere. This is a uniquely broad approach allowing us to interact widely not only with other academic institutions but with other industrial stakeholders such as farmers and the agri-tech industry. Ultimately it is enabling us to apply our science to real-world situations and improve the sustainability of agriculture.”

The P3 Centre held its first industry-academia forum event this month where a wide range of industrial stakeholders joined with University of Sheffield academics to discuss the key plant and soil science issues facing industry and how P3 is responding to these challenges.

Professor Jurriaan Ton, Professor of Plant Environmental Signalling and co-director of P3, added: "It’s true that P3 has a green focus on plant biology but what makes our centre different is that we also extend into other disciplines such as soil microbiology, population genetics and even entomology.

“Combine this with our ability to control and moderate real-world variables such as temperature, humidity, light conditions and CO2 levels in our state-of-the-art facilities, we are able to grow a huge range of species under a wide range of conditions and take this knowledge straight to industrial applications with our collaborative research partners including Enza Zaden, TATA steel, Heineken UK, Syngenta, RAGT Seeds, Boningale, Shell and Bayer.”

Speaking at the event one of the University’s partners, Professor Paul Berryman, agri-tech specialist for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), said: “It's been great to find out about exciting projects particularly in translational research working with industry because at UKTI we are passionate about linking academia and industry to promote UK’s agri-tech industry. P3 is a shining example of how universities can work with industry to produce cutting edge research with real impact”.

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