Policy briefings

John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre (JIC) is an independent, international centre of excellence in plant science, genetics, and microbiology. We generate knowledge of plants and microbes through a creative, curiosity-driven approach to answering fundamental questions in bioscience, resulting in major societal impacts. Our vision Healthy Plants, Healthy People, Healthy Planet is a collaborative call to action to create a world where we can sustainably feed a growing population, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve public health. JIC is strategically funded by the UKRI-BBSRC and is supported by the John Innes Foundation (JIF) through provision of research accommodation, capital funding, PhD studentships, education programmes and engagement activities such as Evidence Week. JIF’s mission is to advance the acquisition and application of knowledge about plants and microbes for societal, environmental and commercial benefit.

Policy briefing

Plants and microbes that can combat climate change

Resistant crops that require fewer pesticides and fertilizers mean less carbon is used in the food supply chain. Learn how crops are being made to withstand harsher environments. 

Additional Resources

Dr Rachel Wells

Senior Scientist at JIC. Reducing chemical usage in agriculture decreases its carbon footprint and protects biodiversity. Banning neonicotinoids for pest control has resulted in a decline in UK oilseed rape crops, damaging industry and increasing reliance on imports. Rachel is researching plant-pest interactions to support resistant crop breeding as a chemical-free solution.

Dr Noel Ellis

Legume geneticist at the John Innes Centre. 10% of UK greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture: of this 56% is nitrous oxide from nitrogen fertilizer and 31% methane mainly from ruminants. Noel and colleagues study the genetics of legumes such as peas, which are protein-rich and can be grown without nitrogen fertilizer, mitigating emissions of both greenhouse gases.

Dr Diane Saunders

Group Leader in the Department of Crop Genetics, John Innes Centre. Diane’s research focuses on studying emerging plant pathogens that pose a significant threat to UK agriculture. This includes the “polio of agriculture”, wheat stem rust. Her team are investigating how after many decades of absence, recent changes in climatic conditions may be exacerbating the risk of this formidable foe re-establishing in the UK.

Professor Steve Penfield

Group Leader in the Department of Crop Genetics, John Innes Centre. Most arable crops in the UK require a period of chilling temperatures to promote high yields, but the timing and intensity of chilling is now affected by climate change. Steve and his team research how reduced winter chill is affecting crop yields and devise breeding strategies to future-proof crops against warmer winters.

Professor Antony Dodd

Group Leader in the Department of Crop Genetics, John Innes Centre. Antony Dodd focuses on how plants respond to daily fluctuations in the environment (circadian rhythms). His team’s research is advancing the vertical farming industry, which is creating climate change-resilience in food supply by producing horticultural crops year-round, using indoor growing systems, whilst manipulating the flavour, fragrance, nutritional content and appearance of crops to add value.

Professor Wendy Harwood

Head of the Crop Transformation Group, John Innes Centre. Wendy’s work involves using genome editing techniques in crops. Genome editing offers a way to create the small changes in crop DNA that lead to useful traits which increase resilience to changing climate. Developing crops this way is precise, and saves many years over traditional breeding methods.

Dr Peter Emmrich

John Innes Foundation Fellow at the Norwich Institute for Sustainable Development. Agriculture is a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the sector most directly affected by climate impacts. Peter’s work focuses on bringing together bioscience and social science to make agricultural systems more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change, both in the UK and abroad.

Professor Tony Miller

Senior Scientist at the John Innes Centre

Nitrogen fertilisers are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. But typically 60% of nitrogen fertiliser applied isn’t taken up by crops and leaches into the environment. Professor Tony Miller is developing new ways to measure soil nitrogen in real time, so we apply only the minimum amount of fertiliser needed.