British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) expands on Norwich Research Park

24 November 2014

Norwich Research Park provides BBRO with ideal laboratory space for new aphid growth facilities to spearhead research and development of future virus yellows resistant sugar beet varieties, cementing the organisation’s position as the leading European authority in this field.

Beet virus yellows is a plant pathogenic virus, which is transmitted by important UK aphid species, causing a yellowing disease. It is a greater problem in the UK than elsewhere in Europe due to our maritime climate and the UK beet industry invests up to £7M annually on insecticides for aphid control, without which virus yellows could cause losses of up to £10M per annum. Recent EU restrictions on insecticide use and the development of insecticide resistance in aphids across Europe threatens to significantly increase the instances of virus yellows in UK grown sugar beet, damaging the competitiveness of UK sugar beet in world markets.

Mr Colin MacEwan, Head of BBRO commented: “It is vital for BBRO to proactively engage on this issue and Norwich Research Park remains the ideal location from which to expand our research capacity. The additional space will allow us to build a specialist aphid growth facility to breed aphids with yellows virus and identify virus resistant plants.”

Dr Mark Stevens, Lead Scientist of BBRO added: “We have identified wild beet that are tolerant or resistant to the effects of virus yellows and this trait has been crossed into sugar beet via collaboration with plant breeders. We propose to develop this resistance further by testing the new varieties for virus resistance, plant vigour and sugar yield. Development of these new virus yellows resistant sugar beet varieties will bring significant economic and environmental benefits to the UK and Europe.”

Norwich Research Park is a leading centre of excellence for bioscience with a unique collaborative environment between research and industry. The Park is currently home to more than 40 science and technology based businesses, with over 12,000 people, including 3,000 researchers and clinicians onsite. It is this concentration of world-leading scientists, coupled with the capacity for multidisciplinary research that has seen the Park develop into the thriving science and innovative business location that it is today.

Dr Sally Ann Forsyth, CEO of Norwich Research Park feels that BBRO’s choice to locate and expand on Norwich Research Park epitomises what the Park has set out to achieve. She said: “BBRO is a great example of how Norwich Research Park can help a business to thrive within a collaborative research and commercial environment. We not only provide flexible space options for growing companies to meet both their science and strategic objectives, but also the benefit of co-location at the heart of a collaborative research community where knowledge transfer and facility sharing helps to optimise value for everyone.

“With its plans for a new aphid growth facility, BBRO is another prime example of an organisation on Norwich Research Park that is leading in it’s field and committed to bringing the UK’s expertise in this sector to the forefront, not just nationally but internationally.”

Colin MacEwan went on to explain why expanding on Norwich Research Park was such an obvious choice: “The Park provides us with unique advantages as an organisation…the opportunity to collaborate with the world-class research institutions also based here, access to leading scientists and shared facilities such as the glasshouses at the University of East Anglia, and latest diagnostic hardware. In reality, this means we can invest more into research programmes such as virus yellows, which will ultimately increase the competitiveness and profitability of the UK beet industry, rather than expensive infrastructure.”

He concluded: “Our organisation has realised the power and value of leveraging others to work in partnership. Most of what we do is collaborative and partnership based – be that transferring knowledge between ourselves and the scientists on the Park, bringing together the farmers and scientists to learn practically from each other or interacting with agronomists and industry to help develop their understanding of the issues and attract funding. Norwich Research Park provides the ideal platform for us, supporting our objective to increase the competitiveness and profitability of the UK beet sugar industry in a sustainable and environmentally acceptable manner.”

For more information about BBRO visit their website