The future of plant breeding

Ensuring plant breeding contributes to a more sustainable future for UK agriculture and exploring how the industry can collaborate to address this challenge, is to be explored at a knowledge exchange event next month.

Plant Breeding Fit for the Future is being hosted by the Soil Association and agri-tech innovation centre, Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) on October 12 at Aston University.

Delegates will join plant breeding and other agricultural industry experts to discuss and debate priorities and collaboration opportunities, as well as share resources, to ensure UK breeding programmes meet the needs and challenges of the 21st Century.

The event will feature a wide range of perspectives with engaging presentations from industry experts such as Professor Tim Benton of Chatham House, Tom MacMillan from the Royal Agricultural University and Paul Gosling of AHDB.

Afternoon break-out sessions will provide an opportunity for delegates to engage in discussion on topics such as traits to support resilience, business models for the 21st Century, achieving tailored varieties with limited resources, and the role of populations vs varieties.

Helen Aldis, Head of Business Development Farming and Land Use for the Soil Association, said: “To build resilience into the industry, farmers need to have confidence in a more diverse range of seeds that they can rely on in changing climatic conditions.

“Too often they can be limited to varieties bred to perform well under input-rich conditions, which are not always best suited to farms that wish to avoid or reduce their chemical use.

“Our Innovative Farmers field labs looking at how hop and wheat varieties perform in organic conditions have made a great start to this important conversation, but with changing weather patterns and input prices escalating, now is the time to bring more of the industry together.

“We encourage all growers to get involved with this event where we can share ideas on the plants we may need for a future farming system that is sustainable, resilient and profitable.”

Rather than discuss specific technologies, the conference aims to explore current plant breeding frameworks and future needs in agriculture.

It is hoped that by bringing practitioners, researchers and policy makers together, discussions will help to identify future breeding priorities and the changes required to successfully meet the challenges associated with a more sustainable future for agriculture.

Dr Ruth Bastow, Innovation Director for CHAP, said: “Plant breeding and the plant varieties we grow play a crucial role in sustainable agricultural systems. This event provides an excellent and timely opportunity to explore future requirements and explore how to maximise and leverage the impact of plant breeding to meet market needs alongside local and global challenges.

“The conference is focused on interaction and networking – we want those attending to feel comfortable to share their thoughts and views on what we need to prioritise, to ensure we have plants which are fit for our future.

“Bringing everyone together should prove an excellent opportunity to identify areas for potential cooperation, foster greater efficiencies and hopefully encourage a more successful transition from breeding programmes to realisation in the market.”

The event is kindly sponsored by the Association of Applied Biologists (AAB), PBS International and Cotswold Seeds.


  • Plant Breeding Fit For the Future
  • Wednesday October 12, 0900-1700
  • Conference Aston, Birmingham, B4 7ET
  • Tickets £30 per person including lunch