For outcomes of ‘blue-sky’ research that nevertheless has real-world impact, you need look no further than Myerscough College’s collaboration with Lancaster University to identify practical solutions to the increasing strain on global water resources produced by greater domestic and industrial demand. World agriculture is already responsible for 70% of the potable water use and there is concern that increasing biomass biomass crops for energy and fuel could further increase the demand. Myerscough provided the scale-up required in the field and the agronomy inputs to test research knowledge of plant physiology and its application, allowing physiological measurements to be made in a largescale field situation. After researchers at Lancaster and the All-Russian Research Institute had identified strains of rhizobacteria with good ACC-deaminase activity that attenuated the loss of root growth induced by soil drying, Myerscough translated this use of rhizobacteria from lab and pot trials to field-scale production. Since then, the University of Lancaster has achieved the Queen’s Award for Innovation, in recognition of its ‘sustained contribution to ensuring that the outcomes of research in plant biology have real world impact’. The work continues, with Myerscough now trialling five phenotypes of Miscanthus and three phenotypes of Populus for water use efficiency, research that has already produced a quick screening technique to link physiological traits to drought tolerance, and progress in identifying the key phenotypes that give ‘more crop per drop’.


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