Lancaster University

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‘More crop per drop’ - research awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize

11/18/2009 21:32:54

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The development of water saving techniques for agriculture which have helped farmers in some of the driest regions of the world, has won Lancaster University a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. It is the third time the University has received one of these prestigious awards.

The Prizes, announced on the 18th November, highlight world-class worktaking place in higher and further education, in Lancaster’s case its contribution to one of the biggest challenges facing humankind - feeding seven billion people against a background of climate change.

The prize winning research has been developed by a Lancaster team of plant biologists, led by Distinguished Professor Bill Davies in the Lancaster Environment Centre, who have shown how thesignals that roots in drying soil send to the shoots can help plants cope more successfully with drought and produce better yield.

This new understanding of how plants reacts to stress has now been exploited with the agriculture industryby the group working in collaboration with researchers around the world. Water saving approaches to irrigation and to the management of crop production have resulted in significant water saving and better crop production in regions of the world which suffer water scarcity. This means increased profitability for farmers and better conditions for people living in challenging environments which are becoming even more challenging as the climate changes.

Lancaster science has been used to develop new systems to growcereals in North China, grape vines and top fruit in Australia and in viticulture and vegetable production around the Mediterranean and in the USA. New water saving techniques have also been developed with the UK horticultural and agricultural industries.

The Lancaster team has trained a large number of research biologists who work around the world on projects aimed at contributing to food security. The prize also recognises the teams work with industry in passing on new knowledge through training programmes and partnerships run through the University’s specialist environmental business centre, the first of its kind in the UK.

Lancaster University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said: “The Lancaster Environment Centre is working at the forefront of science and is helping to provide real solutions to the challenges of climate change. We are absolutely delighted that this exceptional contribution has received such prestigious recognition."

This research also won the coveted Times Higher Research Project of the Year 2009.

Lancaster University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 1994 (the first year of the scheme) for broadening the opportunities for students with special needs, and won again in 2005 for its work in delivering the largest regional broadband infrastructure in Europe.

A Prize Certificate will be presented to the University at Buckingham Palace on 19 February 2010.