Plants and Crops

Plants and crops are essential to life on Earth as they capture energy from sunlight and convert this to carbohydrates, proteins, fats and nutrients, making them the first link in the food chain.


Future Challenges

There are significant challenges facing the Plant Sector over the coming century, with the impacts of a growing world population, predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050, and climate change increasing local and global competition for land.

  • The agriculture sector will need to increase crop production by at least 50% to meet global food demands.
  • This increase does not take into account the rising demand for renewable feedstocks as an alternative to mineral oil and natural gas for the industrial production of energy, chemicals, polymers and materials, driven by an emerging bio-based economy.
  • Plants are also the source of ~25% of all registered pharmaceuticals and are increasingly used in the personal care industry to supply bioactive compounds.
  • In order to help preserve global biodiversity, it will be important to maximise yield potential from existing agricultural land, therefore reducing the need to convert rainforest and grasslands to farmland.

The UK has a world-class research-base in plant and crop sciences. It will be critical to direct this research capacity towards the challenges facing the sector to ensure global food security in the coming century.


Role of KTN's Plant Sector

The main role of KTN's Plant Sector is to put companies and innovators in contact with the knowledge and funding that they need to bring new products and processes to market. The challenges highlighted above provide an opportunity for the UK research-base and industry to develop bioscience-inspired solutions through the application of knowledge.

The Plant Sector will help to deliver new innovations to these challenges through knowledge transfer and networking activities.


Key areas of activities include:
  • Crop defence and Food security
  • Developing control strategies for agricultural pests and diseases
  • Reducing greenhouse gas production from Agriculture
  • Soils and fertility (e.g. Phosphorus and nitrogen use in UK agriculture)
  • Water use efficiency in crops
  • Biorefining


Find out more about the challenges and solutions offered by photosynthetic organisms:

Plant based bioactives


Plants for Chemicals

Plants for Energy

Plants for Food and Feed

Plants for Health and Personal Care

Plants for Materials and Polymers

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KTN's Plant Sector Publications

KTN's Plant Sector has developed a series of publications to highlight the economic benefit of research and development to the agriculture and food industry. 


New forage varieties for the sustainable intensification of the livestock agriculture

April 2011


Analysis of the economic impact of plants breeding in the UK

April 2011


Analysis of the impact of crop protection chemistry on agricultural production

May 2011


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