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Waterproofing crops research to continue

Posted 5 March 2013

Vital research that investigates protecting crops from drought damage is to continue at Harper Adams University thanks to £50,000 of funding.

The John Oldacre Foundation is sponsoring a three-year PhD studentship that will look at how polymers, called antitranspirants, can improve the yield of oilseed rape by minimising water loss.

Antitranspirants, which act as ‘waterproofing’, are commonly used on Christmas trees to reduce water loss and needle drop but are yet to be actively used in the crop protection industry.

Research previously conducted at Harper Adams looked at spraying these compounds onto wheat crops at the flowering stage, when water shortage has a major effect. This showed that drought is much less damaging to wheat treated with the polymers.

The project is being supervised by Professor Peter Kettlewell and Dr Ivan Grove. Professor Kettlewell, Research Co-ordinator, said: “Research into antitranspirants first began in the 1960s but this research found that although they can help crops to conserve water in drought conditions, they also restrict the intake of CO2 and in turn, reduce growth.

“We started looking at these methods with wheat and demonstrated how to use them to reduce drought damage to yield.

“The funding for this PhD studentship will allow us to apply these techniques to oilseed rape, another very important crop in the UK which can suffer serious yield loss from drought.

“Antitranspirants have the potential to help farmers to protect their yields and combat the effects of climate change.”

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