The John Innes Centre (JIC) is a leading interdisciplinary research institute for plant and microbial science. Founded as the John Innes Horticultural Institution in 1910, the Centre was originally based in South London. It moved to Norwich in 1967 and became the John Innes Centre in 1994 after a merger with the Cambridge Laboratory and the Nitrogen Fixation Laboratory.
JIC has a rich history of making significant scientific discoveries in wheat research. The value of the historic discoveries in wheat made at the JIC were estimated to be worth £4.9bn globally. An independent evaluation found that the work currently being undertaken on wheat by the Centre will contribute an estimated £100m Gross Value Added to the UK and £4.3bn to the rest of the world over the next 25 years.
Recent research into wheat genetics and genomics as part of Professor Cristobal Uauy’s research programme identified genes which control grain size and spike architecture, which could enable scientists, in the long term, to increase yield and improve crop emergence and vigour. JIC is part of the Designing Future Wheat Programme, the UK’s National Wheat Research Programme.
The Centre’s researchers are from 33 countries, of which 64% are from outside the UK. The Centre is currently involved in 137 international collaborations with 39 countries. Between 2007 and 2017, 68% of JIC publications were co-authored with international partners. JIC’s international reach strengthens the science it produces and increases the impact of its work.
What JIC will be working on
Project: Leveraging genetic innovations for accelerated breeding of climate resilient and nutritious crops
Wheat is the most widely cultivated crop in the world. It feeds much of the world’s population: 793 million metric tons of wheat were consumed globally in FY2021-22. Increasing wheat yield is vital to meeting future worldwide food requirements. Given global population growth, wheat production needs to increase 60% by 2050 to meet global demand.
This project aims to help address this challenge by
- accelerating the breeding process and delivering higher genetic gain by adopting new breeding approaches (genome editing),
- exploiting novel genetic variation
- developing data-driven approaches.
JIC will undertake its research activities in collaboration with ICARDA and CIMMYT alongside national partners in Kenya, Egypt, and Pakistan. These countries have all set goals of becoming self-sufficient in wheat production and this project aligns closely with these aims.
Who JIC will be working with
JIC, ICARDA and CIMMYT have long-standing ties with its partners in the countries where the research will be conducted. In Kenya, JIC will be working with CIMMYT and KALRO-Njoro. The JIC worked with these partners through the Wheat Disease Early Warning Advisory System (Wheat DEWAS) project, an FCDO/BMGF funded initiative. JIC have also worked closely with KALRO and wider NARES on Bioinformatics Community of Practice.
In Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad and JIC worked together to develop the high iron genome edited lines. The CGIAR centres and JIC have a long-standing strategic partnership which has included years of germplasm exchange and multiple joint projects, such as the International Wheat Yield Partnership. As a result of this collaboration, JIC can now generate genome edited lines directly in CGIAR wheat varieties, such as Borlaug100, Zincol, and Omrabi5. This unique expertise allows timely editing directly in target country relevant germplasm.
JIC and ARC-Egypt have previously worked together on wheat genetics and provided training on genomics. ICARDA and the Agricultural Research Center (ARC) established the Wheat Improvement Program in 2009 to improve germplasm, enhance crop management, and strengthen Egypt’s national capacity in wheat production. CIMMYT and QAU coordinate work through the university’s Dr. Awais Rasheed, who is also an Associate Researcher with CIMMYT.
JIC will generate transgene-free genome edited lines, evaluate their performance in glasshouse and share the findings with partners. Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes (TILLING) mutants and genome edited lines will be evaluated for wheat rust resistance in Kenya (by KALRO and CIMMYT) and Egypt (by ARC and ICARDA). Genome edited lines for high iron will be tested in Pakistan by QAU and partners in Kenya and Egypt. ICARDA and CIMMYT will work with JIC on big-data analytics and whole-genome analyses. All partners will work together on training and communication.