Addressing world hunger

As our planet warms and the population continues to increase, one of the most significant issues is going to be that of food security - how do we continue to feed people when the amount of arable land is finite and the plants themselves are coming under increasing threat from drought, heat and fungal attack?

Our progress so far 

During the 21st century, due to the world's population increasing to an estimated 9 billion and the continued loss of agricultural land as a result of climate change, it is predicted that agricultural production will have to double. As plants are the primary producers of the majority of our food, plant science research is key to improving crop production and developing plants that can thrive in harsh environmental conditions.

Oxford Brookes is an expert player in plant science, leading the field in the unique use of high tech microscopes to study living cells. With a new Brookes Bio-imaging Centre soon to open, this research has the potential to make global impact.  

Our ambitions

Oxford Brookes plant scientists study the structure of plant cells with the aim of meeting global demand for food. They are seeking to build on their ongoing research providing key information designed to improve productivity.  Current projects range from looking at how the surface of cells may help regulate cell structure and protect against pathogen attack to the study of plant enzyme pathways to determine how they can be enhanced to maximise crop yield.   

Particular investigations include:

  • mimicking fungal attack on the plant in an attempt to boost the plant's natural immune response. If plants were better able to combat fungal and bacterial pathogens then the large proportion of crops that are lost to microbes every year could be reduced
  • looking at the genes responsible for fruit size. The goal of this research is to produce plants such as wheat and oil-seed rape that have greatly enhanced production from the same fields in which they are currently grown
  • understanding the cellular structures that produce protein and carbohydrates for food production
  • identifying key proteins of the membranes that surround the cell nucleus and their role in controlling gene expression and in cell responses to stress and pathogens.

How you can help

If you are motivated to help us deliver life enhancing research, donations of all sizes will help to make this a reality. By supporting our Environment Fund, your gift will help us find the answers to producing food more efficiently and meeting global productivity.

Case study

John Runions is a leading plant cell biologist at Brookes looking at the life processes of plants, work which could have a huge impact:  

There is a looming crisis. How can we feed the world population with the available land? We’re looking at making plants more productive, not by the number of plants but by their size, for instance making the ear of wheat twice the size – twice the yield from a field. The project is the most important aspect of plant biological research.

John Runions, Reader in Cell and Molecular Biology