We founded the Cambridge Crop Science Centre (“CSC”) two years ago as a global hub for crop science with the dual mission of improving the equity of food security in smallholdings around the world, as well as finding more sustainable methods for agricultural food production.
The Endowment supports our work by investing a legacy gift from the late Russell R. Geiger and from Robert and Susan Cawthorn. I’m excited about attracting and inspiring the next generation of scientists to join us and make an impact. It’s very motivating when we’re able to take our understanding from the laboratory into the field and see it do something useful.
One area of research is finding alternatives to agricultural fertilisers to promote crop production, that contain sources of phosphorus and nitrogen, which negatively impact biodiversity and sustainability. In addition, in low-income countries, fertilisers are often too expensive or unavailable to local farmers, which limits food production and contributes to hunger and poverty. This year, we started a field trial of genetically modified and gene edited barley, improving crop interactions with naturally occurring soil fungi to promote productivity. The results of the first crop are very promising; the increased colonisation by beneficial fungi was present in the field, although we’ll need to conduct further trials to test yields. We believe that this research has the potential for a long-term and worldwide impact.