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Leading the field

Published: 21 Mar 2016 00:01

More than £48m for agriculture, food and environment research.

Scotland will remain at the forefront of ground-breaking advances in farming and food production as a result of continued Scottish Government funding for scientific research, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has said.

More than £48 million is being invested during Scotland's Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

Developments in knowledge and technology previously funded by the Scottish Government include:

  • Revolutionary research into methane from cattle, which paves the way for breeding lower-emission livestock and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
  • A breakthrough in the global fight against parasitic diseases in sheep with the development of a vaccine for the potentially deadly parasite, Barber's Pole Worm, which is common in warmer climates.
  • Effective new techniques to prevent soil erosion following the harvest of potato crops using sediment fences, which has generated international interest from New Zealand, Poland and China and resulted in large scale trial in China's Hunan Province.
  • Working with national and international food companies on the ingredients used in recipes including reformulating existing products so they are lower in salt, fat and sugar.
  • A mobile phone app that helps farmers and land managers improve soil by assessing its carbon content within seconds from a photo.

Mr Lochhead said:

"Scotland is globally renowned as a land of science and innovation, and this funding will ensure we maintain our position at the very cutting edge of advances in agriculture, food and the environment.

"The Scottish Government continues to be a major funder of research in these fields, investing almost £50 million a year in research into crop science, animal health and welfare, human health and wellbeing and global challenges like food security and climate change.

"Our continued support will ensure Scotland will remain at the forefront of ground-breaking advances that have the potential to transform farming and food production in this country and across the world – building on the successes already achieved."

Professor Louise Heathwaite, Chief Scientific Adviser for Rural Affairs and the Environment said:

"The Scottish Government continues to prioritise and fund strategic science that delivers the evidence base to support policy needs in the rural affairs, food and environment portfolio. Much of this research is delivered through the Scottish research institutes, and has allowed Scotland to build an enviable and unrivalled national capability in land-based science in terms of research platforms, critical infrastructures and skilled people.

"This national capability benefits the whole Scotland, adding value through partnerships with other research funders such as the UK Research Councils and the EU; with other areas of scientific expertise in Universities; and with users of science such as the farming community."

Notes to editors

The Scottish Government has allocated over £48 million in 2016-17 for strategic scientific research in the area of rural affairs, food and the environment.

The funding supports:

  • Three main strategic themes of research – (1) Natural Assets, (2) Productive & Viable Rural Economies and (3) Food, Health & Wellbeing. See:
  • Centres of Expertise in Animal Disease Outbreaks, Climate Change and Water Resources, with a new Centre on Plant Health that will be commissioned during the coming year
  • Maintenance of important science infrastructure, including research facilities, data and living collections
  • Innovation projects
The majority of research is carried out by main research providers (MRPs) which are research institutes that focus on a wide range of rural and agricultural themes such as crop science, animal welfare, human health and wellbeing and global challenges like food security and climate change.

Funding is allocated as follows: Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health - £7.6m (mostly diet and human nutrition); Moredun Research Institute - £6.4m (mostly animal health); James Hutton Institute - £21.1m (crop sciences and environment); Scotland's Rural College - £7.3m (agriculture); BioSS -£1.7m (statistics and analysis); collaboration with Higher Education Institutes - £4m