Department of Crop Science

Crop Production Research DivisionThe Crop Science (CS) Department at Reading, is home to some of the UK's leading crop research facilities in the university sector; covering all aspects of the plant-based food chain, with wide-ranging areas of expertise in: plant physiology, crop modelling, crop agronomy, horticulture, plant breeding and molecular genetics, seed science and plant pathology.

With a research history stretching back to Professor John Percival and the foundation of the scientific discipline of Agricultural Botany, the group continues to expand, building on its 120 year heritage, its current research portfolio has two key drivers:

1. to mitigate environmental impacts of cropping by improving primary productivity, maximising resource-use efficiencies and minimising crop protection inputs.

2. to optimise societal benefits of plant-based food production by improving product quality and nutritional benefits.

The group tackles key issues associated with crop production including genetic improvement, nutrient use efficiency, plant protection and yield enhancement and plays a vital role in tackling major environmental and food security issues that impact on societal sustainability. Working in close collaboration with colleagues throughout the University, in Schools such as Food Science, Humanities and Social Science and Meteorology, CS crosses interdisciplinary boundaries to heighten its research capabilities in a number of areas including:

Crops and Food:
Researchers investigate the use of genetics and processing interventions to avoid intolerance to gluten protein; reduction of anti-nutritional factors in faba bean; targeting increased levels of beneficial compounds associated with improved cardiovascular and brain function.

Crops and Soil:
CS is currently investigating how we can improve the use of phosphate through manipulation of plant nutrient uptake and utilization traits as well as soil mycorrhiza; reduction of pesticide residues through robotic precision application; more effective use of biological nitrogen fixation in cropping systems.

Crops and Climate:

Our scientists undertake modelling work to determine impact of climate change on crop production; genetics of tolerance to drought; impact of heat on grain quality, on apple and cocoa productivity; cocoa genetic resources; root traits for drought resistance.

Crops and Development:

The group has substantial international links comprising, inter alia, cocoa virus research for the benefit of W. African cocoa-exporting countries; rice research for SE Asia; research on common bean for East Africa and faba bean for N. Africa.

In addition to its primary research, CS is also a key contributor to two of the University's cross-disciplinary Centres of Excellence: the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) and the Walker Institute for Climate Systems Research.

The group has a comprehensive range of facilities located on several University sites. Five laboratories are situated in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development; supporting research in microbiology, molecular biology, seed science and environmental/soil science.

The campus is also home to the Crop and Environment Laboratory (CEL), comprising of 2500 m2 of heated glasshouses, with climate controlled and factorial houses, controlled environment growth cabinets, and a protected field plot experimental area. Off-site there is the Crops Research Unit (CRU) at Sonning Farm which has facilities to support field plot experiments on all temperate arable and forage crops within a dedicated 12 ha, irrigable field site and supporting laboratory and teaching facilities. There is also a new facility, the International Cocoa Quarantine Unit, opened June 2015, which is located at Hall Farm, Arborfield. Enquiries for access to CEL and CRU facilities can be made via our online form.

Group members:
The group contains about 50 personnel and is headed by Professor O'Sullivan.

As well as internationally renowned research, members of the group organise and teach on undergraduate degree programmes in Agriculture and Agricultural Business Management as well as the supervision of students undertaking Higher Degrees by Research.

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Professor Donal O'Sullivan

HR Excellence in Research

The University holds the European Commission's HR Excellence in Research Award. Follow the link below for more information


HR Excellence in Research

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