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22/07/13 01:00

Fields ahead in agriculture innovation

Scotland reaps the benefits of Scottish Government funding.

Scotland is leading the way in agricultural science and innovation thanks to Scottish Government funding, the Rural Affairs Secretary has said.

Richard Lochhead’s comments come as the UK Government launches its Agricultural Technologies Industrial Strategy.

The Scottish Government currently spends £30 million each year on agriculture research and knowledge exchange between government divisions, agencies, research institutes and universities.

Examples of how the Scottish Government funding is being spent include:

• £4 million annually on potato disease research to protect Scotland’s seed potato industry, which was worth an estimated £68 million in 2012
• research to help eradicate Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), saving the Scottish economy an estimated £50-80 million over ten years
• exploring commercial use of seaweed as a source of sustainable food ingredients.

Mr Lochhead said:

“Science and innovation are key to sustainable economic growth, and Scotland is, in many ways, leading the rest of the UK with regard to agricultural technology and innovation.

“The great work of those within the industry has led to commercial successes such as conventional crop breeding and livestock vaccine development. We also have strong agricultural exports which are recognised around the world for their high quality.

“Scotland already offers so much on this front and I encourage Scottish organisations to cooperate to make the most of any opportunities for additional funding to ensure they remain at the forefront of agricultural innovation.”

Professor Louise Heathwaite, Chief Scientific Adviser for Rural Affairs and the Environment said:

“The Scottish Government continues to fund a substantial portfolio of strategic and applied research at our research centres that is of direct relevance to the agricultural industry.

“This is closely linked to more fundamental work at the Scottish universities - both are of high quality which helps maintain Scotland's leading position in land based science.

“The Scottish Government will continue to work with its relevant partners to optimise the impact of these scientific efforts on agricultural innovation.”

Notes to editors

The Scottish Government provides £30 million per year for agriculture research and knowledge exchange, and our Main Research Providers (MRPs) have reported novel successes with innovative products and new public-private agri-tech partnerships in several key areas, such as:

  • Potato disease research and the development of genetic markers for potato breeding at The James Hutton Institute which supports ten different commercial contracts on potato variety development with UK and international companies, and helps to safeguard the continuing growth of Scotland’s high health seed potato exports worldwide.
  • Animal health research at the Moredun Research Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) which is currently helping the farming industry in Scotland to eradicate Bovine Viral Diarrhoea, saving each affected dairy business in Scotland around £10,000 per year whilst also improving animal welfare and reducing GHG emissions.
  • New knowledge from work on Short Chain Fatty Acids at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health which is being used to further explore the commercial use of seaweed (wild and farmed) as a new, sustainable source of functional food ingredients.

Seed potato industry figures are sourced from the Economic Report on Scottish Agriculture 2013: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/06/5219/0