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Plant Breeding Contributes to UK Economy

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A study by DTZ Life Sciences Group says that the benefits of plant breeding gave £1.2 billion in additional value to farming and the food supply chain in the United Kingdom. This is equivalent to a 40-fold return on the seed royalty income that breeders get to improve the yield and performance of local crop varieties.

The British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB)-funded study looked at three key crops – wheat, barley and forage maize. Increase yields and inputs savings at the farm level were some of the economic benefits of improved varieties. Yield increase attributed to plant breeding is valued at between £373 and £445 million per annum in wheat while high yielding barley varieties contributed between £238 and £592 million. Forage maize is worth £66 million per year at the farm level.

"Our expanding knowledge of plant genetics certainly opens up major new opportunities to develop crops with increased yields and improved climate resilience. But the investment needed to exploit this rapidly advancing knowledge-base remains greater than commercial plant breeders can manage alone. Without new sources of investment and improved collaboration between public and private sector research, current rates of genetic yield gain deliverable from the limited royalty income available to plant breeders will fall short of the food security goals set for 2030," said BSPB chairman Nigel Moore.