Page last updated at 10:07 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 11:07 UK

Food talks focus on crop genetics

Potato crops can be especially vulnerable to disease

Understanding the impact of crop genetics on the environment is essential to future food security, delegates in Dundee will hear.

Scientists from across the world are gathering in the city to discuss the challenges faced by producers as the climate changes.

Among the issues raised will be the use of genetic modification to guard against potato crop diseases.

The Eucarpia conference will run until Friday.

Dr Bill Thomas, whose work at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) focuses on barley and other cereals, said understanding the genetic make-up of crops was essential.

He said: "We need to be able to analyse and understand how genetic factors can interact with themselves and the environment to affect the yield and quality of crops.

"It is becoming more and more important as the global climate changes, and we try to breed crops that can cope with less water, higher temperatures and possibly new pests and diseases."

Delegates will hear from scientists at the SCRI who have created new varieties of potatoes and soft fruit in the fight against diseases that lead to huge crop loss.

The research is likely to interest producers in the potato industry, which is worth an estimated £4bn a year.

SCRI director, Professor Peter Gregory, said: "Our research delivers new varieties of potatoes and soft fruit and novel breeding technologies for barley.

"Turning world-class science into products for the marketplace has resulted in SCRI Group returning to Scotland more than £30 per head of population each year via its commercial products to say nothing of the environmental benefits resulting from lower use of pesticides for disease and pathogen control."

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