Regular news updates on the group's activities and key developments in science and technology in agriculture.

Group News

APPGSTA Annual Report 2017/18
October 2018

APPGSTA Income and Expenditure Statement
October 2018

Review of developments since 2010 APPGSTA report

- Professor David Leaver
February 2018

Westminster Hall Debate
Agriculture GCSE

(Julian Sturdy MP)
February 2018

APPGSTA Annual Report 2016/17 September 2017

News release: APPG meeting highlights vital role of horticultural innovation post-Brexit, September 2017

APPGSTA Income and Expenditure Statement
July 2017

Promotion of Innovation

House of Commons, BEIS Questions
September 2016

APPGSTA Annual Report 2015/16
July 2016

APPGSTA Income & Expenditure Statement
July 2016

APPGSTA Annual Report 2014/15
July 2015

Balancing the Debate - Mark Spencer article for New Statesman
March 2015

Agri-science MP concerned over axing of EU chief scientist role
News Release, 13 November 2014

APPGSTA Annual Report 2012/13
January 2014

The UK as a global hub of agricultural innovation: George Freeman presentation to Oxford Farming Conference, January 2014

VIDEO: MP hails agri-tech project

VIDEO: George Freeman MP explains the significance of the Agri-Tech Strategy

UK Agri-Tech Strategy published

22 July 2013


APPGSTA Annual Report 2011/12

December 2012


Progressive agriculture can still be sustainable, Farm Business article, November 2012


George Freeman MP hails £250m bio-economy boost

24 May 2012


House of Lords Debate -

Innovation in EU Agriculture

February 2012


APPGSTA Annual Report 2010/11

December 2011



Support for agricultural R&D is essential to deliver sustainable increases in UK food production, November 2010


2019 Archive


2018 Archive


2017 Archive


2016 Archive


2015 Archive


2014 Archive


2013 Archive


2012 Archive


2011 Archive

2010 Archive

2009 Archive

2008 Archive

Science & Technology News



Huge knowledge gap over soil health

A vital knowledge gap about England’s environment has been uncovered by soil campaigners. They have discovered that just 0.41% of the cash invested in environmental monitoring goes on examining the soil.

That’s despite the fact that soils round the world – including in the UK – are said to be facing a crisis. The figures are startling: £60.5m goes to monitoring water quality, £7.65m to checking on air – but just £284,000 to auditing soil. The mismatch was revealed in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA). more

BBC News, 16 March 2020 

New £25m livestock research facility opens in Edinburgh

A new £25 million facility that aims to enhance both food security and the health and welfare of livestock has opened in Edinburgh.

The Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility will research ways to produce livestock that are genetically more resistant to disease.

The new centre, operated by the University of Edinburgh, will also research and develop improved vaccines for farmed animals. more

Farming UK, 12 March 2020 

Chancellor pledges big increase to research spend

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged to more than double spending on UK government research and development (R&D) by 2024.

Mr Sunak promised an increase of 15% for next year with further increases in successive years.

The pledge means that the government may exceed its target of boosting the proportion of private and public R&D spend from 1.7% to 2.4% by 2027. more

BBC News, 11 March 2020 

More studies needed on viability of vertical farming, scientists say

Scientists say further research should be undertaken to determine the viability of vertical farming as 'little information' is available on pest and disease management.

New methods of food production - including vertical farming - have offered hope for optimising the productivity of agriculture as the world population continues to grow.

But scientists warn there is currently insufficient information on the cons of adopting this novel approach to farming. more

Farming UK, 6 March 2020 

Badger cull to be replaced by vaccines in bovine TB fight

Badger culling to tackle the spread of TB in livestock is to be phased out to be replaced with a cattle vaccine, the government has announced.

Defra, the environment department, said trials of a vaccine will take place over the next five years, and there are plans to vaccinate more badgers. more

BBC News, 5 March 2020 

European GMO laws no longer fit

The current EU rules on genetically modified organisms (GMO) are not fit for purpose anymore, leading scientists warn in a newly released EASAC commentary. They call for a radical reform of the legal framework.

“There is a societal cost of not using new genome editing techniques or being slow in adoption. We have no time to lose in resolving our shared problems for food and nutrition security,” says Robin Fears, Director of EASAC’s Biosciences Programme. more

EASAC, 4 March 2020  

Neonic hypocrisy highlighted

Neonicotinoids were a key point of discussion at the NFU Conference, following the high number of imports from countries that still use the chemical.

Since July 2019, the UK has imported almost 100,000 tonnes of oilseed rape from Ukraine, where neonicotinoid insecticides are still used, costing UK arable farmers almost £95 million in lost opportunity and mass crop failure, according to the NFU.

When questioned over the differing standards, Defra secretary George Eustice said Brexit had created the opportunity to ‘look afresh’ at legislation, but Government will not take risks with public health or the environment. more

Farmers Guardian, 1 March 2020

Clear conversation needed on gene editing in order to convince public

The industry needs to make ‘absolutely clear’ that gene editing (GE) is very different to genetic modification (GM) if it is to sell the technology to the UK public.

Speaking during the plant health session at NFU Conference, Tom Bradshaw said: “GE is very different to GM. We need to be absolutely clear that GE is speeding up plant breeding. It could be done by current plant breeding methods. If we confuse that discussion, then we are going to confuse the public and we won’t win [the debate]. It’s critical we’re absolutely clear that GE should be allowed.” more

Farmers Guardian, 29 February 2020  

PM gives green light to post-Brexit EU research deal

The UK will endeavour to continue within a €100bn (£85bn) EU science programme after Brexit. The news was revealed within a document setting out the government's approach to negotiations with the EU.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for the UK to negotiate its continued participation within the Horizon Europe research programme. Horizon Europe provides funding to scientists, students and industry for research. more

BBC News, 27 February 2020 

New tech could convert wastewater into 'super fertiliser'

Severn Trent is working in collaboration with a UK tech firm to adopt a new treatment process and convert wastewater sludge into a 'super fertiliser'.

The project has the potential to combine carbon dioxide with otherwise hard-to-treat ammonia and make a commercial fertiliser for farms.

It focuses on a new process, developed by 'cleantech' company CCm Technologies, which uses captured carbon dioxide to stabilise chemicals held within waste streams, turning them into sustainable plant nutrients. This gives the potential to develop an enhanced fertiliser product for agricultural application, potentially creating new commercial opportunities for Severn Trent. more

Farming UK, 19 February 2020 

Productivity the key to unlocking future opportunities in agriculture

The industry and government must together seize the opportunities presented by new policy frameworks and technology to lead a transformation in our farming industry.

Driving a massive step change in productivity growth is the key to unlocking a successful future highlights a major report published today by the Food & Drink Sector Council (FDSC).

With the UK leaving the EU, imminent changes to agricultural policy and the pressure to achieve net zero emissions, the report, prepared by industry experts for the FDSC, highlights the steps that together, industry and government can take to overcome the productivity challenge that has long faced the British farming industry. more

Farming Online, 17 February 2020  

Understanding soil biology to build future farming resilience

DNA analysis is highlighting valuable differences in soil biology under different soil management regimes, offering the opportunity to secure real and lasting improvements in crop and environmental health. 

As part of the Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems (ASSIST) programme, researchers from Agrii and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) are working to achieve a far better understanding of soil biology to inform future agricultural and environmental policy and practice. more

Farmers Guardian, 15 February 2020 

We're worse with food waste than we think

Common estimates for global food waste are too low, according to Dutch researchers, who suggest every person in the world is wasting about 500 calories of food a day.

Without waste, we could feed five people instead of four, they said. The study found food waste goes up with the increase of money in our pockets, possibly reaching more than twice the levels we thought previously.

Reducing food waste is a key challenge in fighting climate change. Wasted and lost food accounts for almost 10% of all our greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN. more

BBC News, 12 February 2020 

France must put gene-edited crops under GMO rules this year – court

The French government must in the coming months change its policy on crops developed using a breeding technique called mutagenesis to adhere to stricter rules for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a court ruled on Friday.

The decision by France’s top administrative court follows a ruling by the Europe Union’s highest court in 2018 that mutagenesis, often called gene-editing, should be subject to GMO regulations. more

Reuters, 10 February 2020 

App uses satellite tech to abolish need to measure grass

Grassland farmers can now use a pasture management tool that uses satellites to help predict grass covers instead of having to measure grass using plate meters.

Grass Sat uses a grass growth model that monitors more than 20 different parameters, including daily weather, soil and earth observation from satellites. Alongside this, farmers enter management activities into the tool.

The model makes hundreds of complex calculations every hour, which produces information on soil properties, grass characteristics and grass growth rates (kg dry matter/ha). more

Farmers Weekly, 9 February 2020

High fibre wheat genes identified for healthier white bread

An international group of scientists, led by Rothamsted Research and the John Innes Centre, has opened its door to healthier wheat varieties, after pinpointing genes responsible for the dietary fibre content of flour.

The high fibre white flour produced has as much as twice the fibre of traditional white flour, but is otherwise identical and makes a good quality white loaf with all the added health benefits which come from eating wholemeal bread. more

Farmers Guardian, 5 February 2020 

NIAB opens new headquarters following multi-million pound redevelopment project

NIAB has opened its new Cambridge headquarters following a two-year, £25 million redevelopment and construction project.

The new Lawrence Weaver Road headquarters includes offices, state-of-the-art laboratories, growth room facilities and meeting rooms, all improving and modernising NIAB’s facilities in Cambridge.

It is also the base for the Crop Science Centre - a partnership between NIAB and the University of Cambridge – working with industrial partners to translate the University’s strong fundamental plant research into outputs for the farmer, processor and consumer, both in the UK and across the world. more

Farmers Guardian, 4 February 2020

Glyphosate is safe and not carcinogenic, US says

US authorities have concluded that glyphosate is safe for use and herbicides containing this active ingredient are not carcinogenic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reaffirmed the safety of glyphosate based on the agency’s expert review over a 10-year period.

In its review, released on Friday 31 January, the government regulator concluded that it “did not identify any human health risks from exposure to glyphosate.” It also said that “it used the most current science policies and risk assessment methodologies to prepare a risk assessment in support of the registration review of glyphosate.” more

Farming UK, 3 February 2020 

New visa system to keep UK 'open to talented scientists'

The Government has announced that a fast-track visa will open next month to attract the world's leading scientists.

The visas will have no cap on the numbers of suitably qualified people able to come to the UK.

The announcement follows a pledge last year by the PM to turn the UK into a "supercharged magnet to attract scientists like iron filings". more

BBC News, 27 January 2020

UK climate report: Cut red meat by 20% and plant more trees

Reducing the number of ruminants and increased tree planting on farmland are key to meeting the UK’s “net zero” carbon ambitions, says the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

Launching its latest report, Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK, committee chairman Lord Deben said the time for discussion was over and the time for delivery had arrived, backed by legislation if necessary. more

Farmers Weekly, 23 January 2020 

UKRI announces new Quality and Food Loss Network

Globally, over one third of food produced across the whole food chain is wasted. In the UK, 51% of the food wasted is lost before it even reaches consumers, during either the agriculture, post-harvest, distribution or processing stages.

A significant proportion of food loss relates to the inherent physiology of the crops, poor control of post-harvest biology, and the efficacy and appropriateness of the control systems applied.

A new UK network that aims to use bioscience research to address this significant food loss is launched today by UKRI’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). more

UKRI, 22 January 2020 

New study to aid livestock farming in challenging landscapes

Researchers are seeking to improve the breeding of sheep and goats in challenging environments such as hills and uplands.

The £7m study will aid farmers in challenging landscapes, where small ruminants, such as sheep and goats, can thrive.

The international project aims to develop ways to apply genetic selection to improve resilience and efficiency in livestock. more

Farming UK, 21 January 2020 

Could seaweed hold the answer to producing sustainable animal feed?

Seaweed is on track to become a potential replacement for some ingredients in the production of ruminant animal feeds, thanks to claims of offering associated benefits from improved meat quality to a reduced carbon footprint.

With seaweed already being successfully utilised by some ruminants in specialist cases, a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) involving Davidsons Animal Feeds and the James Hutton Institute, funded by Innovate UK, is exploring the possibilities seaweed could offer to commercial livestock producers. more

Farmers Guardian, 17 January 2020 

Agriculture Bill to boost environment & food production

A future where farmers are properly supported to farm more innovatively and protect the environment is a step closer today following the introduction of the Agriculture Bill.

The landmark legislation introduced today will provide a boost to the industry after years of inefficient and overly bureaucratic policy dictated to farmers by the EU.

It sets out how farmers and land managers in England will in the future be rewarded with public money for “public goods” – such as better air and water quality, higher animal welfare standards, improved access to the countryside or measures to reduce flooding. more

Farming Online, 16 January 2020 

Climate change: Last decade confirmed as warmest on record

The 10 years to the end of 2019 have been confirmed as the warmest decade on record by three global agencies. According to Nasa, Noaa and the UK Met Office, last year was the second warmest in a record dating back to 1850.

The past five years were the hottest in the 170-year series, with the average of each one more than 1C warmer than pre-industrial. The Met Office says that 2020 is likely to continue this warming trend. more

BBC News, 15 January 2020 

UK crop production 'will fall dramatically' if Atlantic circulation collapses

British crop production will fall dramatically if climate change causes the collapse of a pattern of ocean currents in the Atlantic, a new study claims.

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) brings heat from the tropics, making Britain warmer and wetter than it would otherwise be. University of Exeter scientists show that, while warming Britain is expected to boost food production, if the AMOC collapses it would not just wipe out these gains but cause the “widespread cessation of arable farming” across the country.

Such a collapse – a climate change “tipping point” – would leave Britain cooler, drier and unsuitable for many crops, the study, published in Nature Food, says. more

Farming UK, 14 January 2020 

New plant breeding method for better photosynthesis

Researchers at the Netherlands-based Wageningen University and Research (WIR) have described a method that can completely replace the organelles (cell internal structures), of one plant with those of another, while the chromosomes remain unchanged.

The organelles comprise chloroplasts, which are essential for photosynthesis, and mitochondria, which generate energy.

There is interest in whether the research, which was conducted using the thale cress plant, leading to improvements in photosynthesis, could be applied more widely to agricultural crops. more

Farmers Guardian, 13 January 2020 

UK ban on US chlorinated chicken 'to continue after Brexit'

Chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef will be kept out of the UK under any trade deal with the US, the environment secretary has promised.

Theresa Villiers told the BBC the current European Union ban on the two foods will be carried over into UK legislation after Brexit.

Until now the UK has been wavering on the issue. But she told BBC Countryfile: “There are legal barriers to the imports and those are going to stay in place.” more

BBC News, 9 January 2020 

Food 'made from air' could compete with soya

Finnish scientists producing a protein "from thin air" say it will compete with soya on price within the decade. The protein is produced from soil bacteria fed on hydrogen split from water by electricity.

The researchers say if the electricity comes from solar and wind power, the food can be grown with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions. If their dreams are realised, it could help the world tackle many of the problems associated with farming. more

BBC News, 8 January 2020 

Leaving 'bureaucratic' CAP will boost productivity, minister says

Farmers will boost productivity and protect the environment post-Brexit as the UK moves away from the 'bureaucratic' Common Agricultural Policy, the Defra Secretary has announced today.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, Theresa Villiers confirmed that the agriculture bill will be introduced to parliament this month.

The bill will highlight how a new approach is to be adopted once the UK leaves the EU, where farmers and land managers are rewarded with public money for ‘public goods’. At the same time, farmers will have 'greater opportunities' to boost their productivity, leading to 'more successful and resilient' farm businesses. more

Farming UK, 8 January 2020 

Scottish farming could 'slash emissions by 38% by 2045'

Scotland could be at the forefront of climate-friendly farming as a new report has found Scottish farmers could slash emissions by 38% by 2045.

The report by WWF Scotland said Scotland's agriculture sector could 'comfortably' reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) within the next few decades.

It highlights the most important mitigation measures which can be made on a farm level require 'little or no land use change'. These include measures to improve nitrogen fertiliser use, improvements to animal health and breeding, rotational grazing, feed additives and using legumes to fix nitrogen. more

Farming UK, 8 January 2020 

Time to give GMOs a chance?

If the European Union would take a more 'science-led' attitude to genetically modified crops, it could hugely reduce its use of pesticides.

According to 'consumer advocacy group' the Consumer Choice Center, it is time to reassess the existing EU regulation of biotechnology.

In an open letter to Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, the pro-GM campaigners emphasised the benefits of a 'pro-consumer, pro-science and pro-innovation approach'. more

Scottish Farmer, 5 January 2020 

Plan unveiled for national farm advice service

A new partnership between Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and ADAS plans to give farmers greater access to independent advice backed by world-leading research and innovation.

The joint venture will see SRUC and ADAS pool their expertise to offer farmers a UK-wide agricultural and rural knowledge service – including a new digital platform, consultancy services, education and training courses for the food and farming sectors.

ADAS has 400 staff working across England and Wales. SRUC’s SAC Consulting arm has 24 offices across Scotland and Northern England. It offers a range of specialisms in soil nutrition, livestock and agronomy, branding and marketing of food products, and analytical testing. more

Farmers Weekly, 3 January 2020

Ex-Defra adviser accused of lying about livestock farmers ‘damaging’ nature

The Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) has accused ex-Defra adviser Professor Sir Ian Boyd of lying, after he claimed livestock farmers were being paid by the Government to damage the environment.

It is not the first time Sir Ian, who was the department’s chief scientific adviser from 2012 to 2019, has caused controversy in the farming community. In 2018, he shocked attendees of the IAFRI Metaldehyde Conference by saying the UK’s agriculture system was designed in the 19th century and ‘has not changed much since’. And in November last year, farm groups criticised his call for people to cut down on eating red meat in order to meet the 2050 net zero emissions target.

Now Sir Ian has said to The Guardian: “Most of the livestock production in the UK is unprofitable without public subsidy. The public are subsidising the production of livestock to produce environmental damage, all the way from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution. Why should we continue to do that? It is not sensible.” more

Farmers Guardian, 2 January 2020 

Why ‘vertical’ farming is growing in the UK

Being able to produce crops 365 days a year, without the need for pesticides or much human intervention, while being unaffected by the weather, will appeal to many growers after such a prolonged, wet autumn.

Vertical farming – sometimes called indoor farming – is the practice of growing plants under fully controlled conditions in buildings in many stacked layers, without solar light. Unlike glasshouse production, which relies on sunlight, it makes use of LED lighting to provide different wavelengths of light, according to crop and growth stage need.

And it’s a fast-growing sector. Worldwide, it was worth £1.72bn in 2018, with experts predicting that will rise to £9.84bn by 2026. Japan and the US are leading the way, but other countries are catching on. more

Farmers Weekly, 18 December 2019 

Wheat yields only 60% of what they could be, study shows

Farmers could be getting yields up to 15t/ha out of their wheat harvests, newly published research shows. 

The crop’s untapped potential was discovered in a research simulation conducted by Rothamsted Research, which showed that wheat yields in the UK could be increased by 50%, while yields in some European countries could be increased by 90%. 

When comparing the performance of computer-modelled “idealised” gene-edited wheat plants and locally adapted cultivars in millions of different simulations, a significant “genetic yield gap” was found. more 

Farmers Weekly, 12 December 2019 

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