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The changing face of crop protection in 21st century agriculture (Cameron-Gifford Lecture)

Professor Robert Edwards, Newcastle University

Date/Time: 3rd March 2015

Crop protection remains a central activity in the sustainable intensification of agriculture, that currently safeguards up to 40% of global food production. However, despite its continued profitability, the crop protection industry is now struggling with unprecedented challenges to its conventional model based on chemical technologies. 

Challenges include:

  • an increasingly demanding regulatory environment
  • a shortfall in new modes of action for pesticides and herbicides
  • a steady rise in resistance to control agents in pests, pathogens and weeds   

Unless addressed in a coordinated way, we may be looking to a future of yield stagnation rather than  a second green revolution. In this lecture, the current status of crop protection research will be reviewed and a new strategy of proactive rather than reactive approaches proposed.

Speaker biography

Robert Edwards qualified with a BSc in Biochemistry (Bath University) and a PhD in Environmental Toxicology (St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, University of London). His interests are focussed on the biotransformation of synthetic compounds and natural products in plants and the manipulation of these pathways for applications in crop protection and biorefining using technologies including synthetic biology. These interests have been developed through working in both the private and public sector in the UK (Schering Agrochemicals ) and USA (Noble Foundation), with an independent research group established in 1990 in the Biology Department at the University of Durham. 

In 2008 he became the Head of Biological Sciences at Durham and in 2010 took up a joint position as Chief Scientist at the UK’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) and a chair in Crop Protection in CNAP, University of York.

To further consolidate his interests in basic and applied agrifood research, in March 2014 he took up post as the Head of the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development where he continues to direct personal research programmes in crop protection.