Tag: food

  • Health, wellbeing and veganuary

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham

    Just as I was starting to notice a slight increase in day length, and daring to think ahead to spring, our weather reminded us that it is still very much winter, with possibly the largest snowfall in rural Wiltshire that I can remember.

    It is during these winter months that colds and flu cases are at their peak – I’m sure we all notice the coughs and sneezes as we go about our daily lives. While there is no cure for the common cold and over-the-counter medications can help alleviate some of the symptoms, controlling the cough reflex is one of toughest problems to solve. Noscapine is a known cough suppressant but due to its limited availability had not found widespread utility. A BBSRC-funded collaboration, between the University of York and GlaxoSmithKline, which builds on earlier fundamental research led by Professor Ian Graham, has helped to change this. Their research has led to the breeding of a new poppy variety (PDF) that produces much higher levels of noscapine, so much so that it is now responsible for 80% of the world’s noscapine supply. Because of the higher quantity of noscapine produced by this new poppy, extraction is much simpler and cheaper, opening up the possibility of noscapine being used more widely in cough medicines – and this could bring welcome relief to many of us. Interestingly, noscapine is also undergoing phase II clinical trials as a low toxicity anti-cancer agent. […]

  • Small surprises and farmers in Oxford

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham

    The start of a year is often a time for reflection on the previous 12 months and a look forward to the year ahead.

    Shortly before the Christmas break a request came through at short notice inviting me to meet with the Minister for Science and senior colleagues from the Ugandan government. The first surprise was that diaries worked. I was not sure what to expect as while we support some projects with links to Uganda, especially in the areas of animal and plant disease, they have not traditionally been a partner. And here was the second surprise – the 5-strong delegation were keen to learn more about UKRI, more about BBSRC and particularly our interests in the bioeconomy, which, with a different focus, they see as a major opportunity for development in Uganda. They were also very interested to understand how we fund research and innovation, as they are in the early stages of establishing their new Ministry. I very much enjoyed the discussions and at the end of the meeting had a huge sense of fulfilment; if I had in any way helped shape their thinking it was a meeting well worth the time and a satisfying, if surprising, way to round off a busy year. […]

  • Biology week!

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham

    I was delighted, once again, to join in the Royal Society of Biology’s Biology week celebrations, including the Parliamentary reception and #IAmABiologist Twitter campaign. In whatever way you identify as a biologist, I hope you joined in with the latter and I wonder what your motivation has been for pursuing biology – mine was a fascination with understanding how living organisms ‘worked’.

    Biology Week offers a fantastic opportunity to recognise the breadth of biology and its impacts, and the reception in Parliament was a great way to ensure that our Politicians have an understanding and awareness of this too. […]

  • Extreme weather…and food production

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham

    Depending on your perspective you may have been relishing the recent spell of unusually hot and dry weather – if, on the other hand, you are one of the many farmers who have been struggling to combat the heat, drought and feed shortages your view is likely to be quite different. Whatever your thoughts on the ‘summer of 2018’, the extreme weather conditions highlight the importance of boosting the resilience of food production systems in the UK to help ensure food supply is maintained. […]

  • Envisioning Harvest 2050 and Beyond

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham
    Scientist working in the field
    Copyright: Rothamsted Research

    On Friday 22 September 2017 the UK officially bid farewell to summer and welcomed in the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ – epitomised by Keats in his poem ‘Ode to Autumn’. The arrival of the new season is signalled by changes in the environment around us – chlorophyll breaking down to reveal the gold and red hues we associate with autumn. And so, with thoughts of harvest in the air, the recent completion of the Hands Free Hectare caught my attention.  This project, a collaboration between Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions, is the first ever in the world to plant, tend and harvest a crop via autonomous vehicles and drones. It provides a glimpse of how innovative technology can transform current approaches to agriculture, including harvesting, and stimulates thoughts on what our food production systems might look like in 2050. […]