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Norwich crop scientist wins Research Medal accolade

PUBLISHED: 16:42 12 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:42 12 December 2017

Wheat scientist Dr Cristobal Uauy at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Picture: Adrian Judd.

Wheat scientist Dr Cristobal Uauy at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. Picture: Adrian Judd.

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A Norwich-based wheat scientist has been awarded a major industry honour in recognition of the global impact of his work.

Dr Cristobal Uauy, a project leader in crop genetics at the John Innes Centre, has been awarded the Research Medal by The Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE).

The award recognises the pioneering genetic techniques developed by Dr Uauy and his team to identify genes which could deliver yield and quality improvements for farmers across the world. These valuable traits include increased grain size, resistance to pests and diseases, and reduced pre-harvest sprouting.

Dr Uauy also won praise for his efforts to share his findings and data with an international community of fellow wheat researchers and breeders, including creating online resources such as PolyMarker and www.wheat-expression.com.

“I am deeply honoured to be awarded the Royal Agricultural Society of England Research Medal,” he said. “This is a recognition of our vibrant research team at the John Innes Centre and our drive to have impact on the agriculture sector.”

Originally from Chile, Dr Uauy was a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California, Davis, before moving to the world-leading crop science centre at the Norwich Research Park.

“Since arriving in the UK eight years ago I have worked closely with breeders to understand the most pressing needs of UK agriculture and to envisage ways in which my team’s research could benefit farmers, consumers, and society at large,” he said.

“Feeding the world perhaps sounds naïve but, from since I was young, my work comes from that motivation. I started studying agronomy and went on to research wheat straight away. People get over 20pc of their energy and protein from wheat in most parts of the world. I wanted my work to have global impact.”

Dr Uauy has helped build collaborations with scientists in Kenya, Ethiopia, India and Brazil, which has led to him leading the John Innes Centre International Science Strategy. His work has appeared in 54 peer-reviewed publications and received more than 4,200 citations.

Prof Lars Ostergaard, programme leader in crop genetics at the John Innes Centre, said: “This award is richly deserved. Cristobal’s programme on wheat genomics and genetics is unparalleled at the international level.

“The resources he has produced facilitate discoveries in wheat that would not have been possible – or even imaginable a few years ago.”

The RASE’s Research Medal is presented for “research work of outstanding merit carried out in the UK, which is proven or likely to be of benefit to agriculture”.

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