A Pre-Competitive Vision for the UK Plant and Crop Sector

Posted on: 20/03/2018

Plants and crops underpin the health, wellbeing and food security of our growing population.


KTN‚ Plant Sector Advisory Board has prepared a new paper to define clear priorities for the UK Plant and Crop sector and areas of research and implementation necessary to achieve the full potential of its excellent research, production and industrial capability.

The announcement of support for industrially relevant R&D via the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund‚ Transforming Food Production programme in February 2018 provides an exciting opportunity for development of some of the themes presented.

True progress in crop production requires a holistic and inclusive approach to the problems faced by UK farming systems and an appreciation of the potential solutions to be generated by innovation. Advances in science and technology underpin many of the areas highlighted by the sector as important for advancement in the 21st Century: these are grouped as sustainable improvements in productivity, quality and safety; and environmental protection to support intensification. This document also reflects the importance of the social measures, analysis of future systems and ensuring that the right skills are in place to exploit the opportunities presented.

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The report identifies and expands upon a number of priority areas:

Sustainable improvements in productivity, quality and safety

  • Priority Area 1: Crop Health & Productivity
  • Priority Area 2: Breeding
  • Priority Area 3: Emerging Technologies
  • Priority Area 4: Seed Quality and Processing

Improving social awareness and proliferation of required skills

  • Priority Area 5: Adopting Innovation
  • Priority Area 6: Skills Development
  • Priority Area 7: Crop Diversification
  • Priority Area 8: Engineering Solutions

Environmental protection to support intensification

  • Priority Area 9: Waste Minimisation
  • Priority Area 10: Soil Health
  • Priority Area 11: Water Usage
  • Priority Area 12: Farming Systems

The KTN Plant Science Advisory Board will use these themes to guide investment priorities for KTN networking events, advise applicants for research funding and support young scientists in their career development.

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In the foreword, Dr Jayne Brookman, Head of AgriFood at KTN, and Dr Martin Clough, Head of Global Product Biology at Syngenta and Chair of the KTN Plant Sector Advisory Board say:

“Plants and crops underpin the health, wellbeing and food security of our growing population. We depend on them through direct or indirect consumption via livestock, or through ecosystem services that improve the quality of our lives. Yet the future of plant production for food, feed and fuel is at a crossroads, and we must decide on the direction that we take.

“The low cost of food is seen as a right, however society is increasingly critical about how and where our food is produced, driving environmental and welfare agendas, politically-driven regulation and traceability.

“Society has a traditional view of how agriculture and horticulture should be conducted, and whilst welcoming technological advances in other industries, similar developments are viewed with suspicion in the context of farming and food production. Yet new innovation has a strong foothold in agriculture and is pulling on technologies from diverse industries including autonomous vehicles, aerospace, medicine, robotics and mathematics to deliver improved production.”


Liliya Serazetdinova and Chris Danks from the Agri-Food team at the KTN would like to thank the members of the Plant Sector Advisory Board who contributed to this booklet.

You can download a rebranded copy of KTN’s Pre-Competitive Vision for the UK‚ Plant and Crop Sector shortly.

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