New £7m funding package will support research into soil and crop interactions

Three initiatives - a Centre for Doctoral Training, the Global Food Security 'Soil and Rhizosphere Interactions for Sustainable Agri-ecosystems' (SARISA) programme, and the appointment of a Soil Co-ordinator - will bring together organisations with a shared interest in soil security and in developing a new generation of soil scientists.

Professor Tim Benton - Image:HW
Professor Tim Benton - Image:HW

Government funding bodies BBSRC and NERC, which fund the three initiatives, are both partners in the Global Food Security (GFS) programme, which has identified soil science as a key strategic priority.

The first of these initiatives, a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in soil science, has been awarded to the STARS (Soils Training And Research Studentships) consortium led by Lancaster University, with funding of £2.3m to bring on a new generation of scientists who understand the complexity of the soil ecosystem and the role it plays in the wider environment.

The SARISA programme will fund four research projects with a collective value of £5m, to investigate the interactions between soil and the communities of microbes that associate with plant roots.

Meanwhile a team led by Professor Chris Collins at the University of Reading has been awarded £700,000 over five years to link the developing Soil Security Programme, the CDT and SARISA projects with other ongoing soil research to maximise its impact.

Professor Tim Benton, who champions the Global Food Security Programme, said: "Without soils, agriculture is nothing. These new initiatives recognise the importance of research needs in this area, which naturally cuts across the traditional 'environmental' and 'biological' areas."

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