Plant Breeding Is Vital to the Economy, Says Report

Article excerpt

Byline: Iain Laing

PLANT breeding adds pounds 1bn to the value of the of the UK farming and food supply industry, according to a new report.

A study commissioned by the British Society of Plant Breeders, says that work to improve the yield, quality and performance of homegrown crops brings in a 40-fold return on the seed royalty income received by breeders.; The work, which focused on three key crops - wheat, barley and forage maize - also estimates that the benefits of plant breeding help safeguard an additional pounds 1.2 billion of economic activity in the UK each year which could otherwise be lost to overseas competition.

It builds on the findings of earlier research by NIAB which found that more than 90% of the increase in national average cereal yields over the past 25 years is due to innovation in plant breeding.

Economic benefits of improved varieties identified in the study by independent economists from DTZ range from increased yields and input savings at the farm level through to import substitution, export earnings and enhanced processing efficiency within the food and drink manufacturing sector.

In wheat, for example, the yield increase attributed to plant breeding is valued at between pounds 373m and pounds 445m per annum, while the development of high protein, hard-milling UK varieties for bread-making helps safeguard up to 750 UK milling jobs and pounds 300m of annual turnover in the UK flour milling industry. BSPB chairman Nigel Moore said: "The recent resurgence of high-level interest in plant breeding, reflected in a growing body of related reports, consultations and research initiatives, is also extremely welcome in highlighting the future demands of crop production.

"It is now clearly recognised that crop genetic improvement will be a key factor in delivering the sustainable increases in agricultural productivity needed to address global challenges of food security and climate change. …