Warwick scientist warns of total collapse of horticultural research

Microbiologist Dave Chandler used a conference on biopesticides last week to warn of the "total collapse" of horticultural research in the wake of Warwick University plans for a new life sciences school.

Chandler told delegates at Biopesticides: Commercial Uptake in Grantham: "It's all very well having targets like Food 2030 but we are witnessing the total collapse of our agricultural and horticultural research base. We are at the start of a global food crisis."

The Warwick HRI microbiologist spoke about ongoing redundancy proposals by the university that could lead to more than 100 job losses, among them half the academic roll call - 23 staff - and technicians (HW, 23 April).

These staff accounted for about 65 research projects worth up to £10m. Yet the redundancy package alone would amount to around £9m, said Chandler.

However, he and colleagues hoped to spearhead the development of a new crop centre to save the research projects under threat. He did not yet know the size of the centre, but it could be running by September.

"The objective is to try and save jobs across the spectrum and get them into the crop centre," said Chandler, who has written to environment secretary Hilary Benn about the redundancies.

"Reading between the lines," Benn was concerned about the impact on science, said Chandler. But a scheduled visit to Warwick by Benn on 3 May was unlikely to go ahead because of the general election a few days later.

"Just a decade ago we had a vibrant research team," he told the Association of Applied Biologists-run conference. "The current state of affairs is a national disgrace."

Earlier this year the Government launched Food 2030, which set out its vision for the food system and laid down goals on production.

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