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Cambridge Global Food Security

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Studying at Cambridge


Plant Biology and Food Security

Increasing the yield of crop plants is a major facet of increasing food security, and one way to do this is from understanding plant biology. Once we understand the underlying biology, we can optimise those inputs key to plant growth, and minimise disruptive factors, as well as ensuring plants are resilient to potential climate changes. Within the Initiative, this is approached from the study of several aspects of plant biology: from the study of insect pests, and how they spread diseases; of efficient forms of photosynthesis, and of how epigenetically encoded variation can be exploited in breeding, as well as how RNA silencing can act in development. This theme also encapsulates work on optimising the extraction of lignocellulosic biofuels from plant waste, in order to relieve the food vs fuel dilemma, as well as work on archaeobotany and archaeogenetics, in the context of the broader archaeology of food.

Plant scientists call for rethink of GM crop regulation

19 Mar 2014 

In a report to the Council for Science and Technology, which advises the Prime Minister on science policy, the scientists warn that unless GM crops are regulated at national, rather than at EU level, European agriculture could suffer because it will be unable to adopt GM crops. 

Crop-infecting virus forces aphids to spread disease

04 Dec 2013

Viruses alter plant biochemistry in order to manipulate visiting aphids into spreading infection

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A simple mixture of organic waste, such as chicken manure, and zeolite, a porous volcanic rock, has been developed into a powerful fertiliser which can also reclaim desert or contaminated land.

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A step towards increasing crop productivity

09 Oct 2013

A breakthrough in understanding the evolutionary pathways along which some crops have become significantly more productive than others may help scientists boost yields of some staple foodstuffs.

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Bumblebee foraging from a Hebe inflorescence

Blowing in the wind: how hidden flower features are crucial for bees

29 May 2012

New research reveals that velcro-like cells on plant petals play a crucial role in helping bees grip flowers.

(Beverley Glover)

Root of Arabidopsis thaliana with green fluorescent protein decorating cell membrane and red fluorescent protein marking nuclei.

Lighting up plant cells to engineer biology

05 Apr 2012

Cambridge researchers have developed a new technique for measuring and mapping gene and cell activity through fluorescence in living plant tissue.

(Jim Haseloff)


Under the Microscope #5 - Daisy

03 Feb 2012

In this video Dr Beverley Glover explains how a daisy is a collection of tiny flowers grouped together to make it look like a single big flower.

 Bees are important pollinators of daisies and many other flowers

Flower power: how to get ahead in advertising

02 Feb 2012 

Some plants go to extraordinary lengths to attract pollinators. A unique collaboration between plant scientists and physicists is revealing the full extent of botanical advertising.


Plant cells, like these in wheat, are surrounded by thick walls where energy is locked up.

Breeding better grasses for food and fuel

17 Jan 2012

Newly discovered family of genes could help us breed grasses with improved properties for food and fuel.

Rice plants propagated using tissue culture at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines

Turbocharging a new Green Revolution

07 Jul 2011

Plant scientists in Cambridge have embarked on ambitious plans to improve crop yields by solving one of the chief limitations of photosynthesis.

Healthy plants

Invigorating plants

06 Jul 2011

Understanding how plants ‘silence’ invading viruses could hold the key to releasing their hidden potential.

Live imaging of the growing tips of plants

Predictive modelling of plant growth for food and fuel

04 Jul 2011

Fundamental research on plant development at the Sainsbury Laboratory will help in the future design of optimal crops.


Scientists aim to improve photosynthesis to increase food and fuel production

11 Apr 2011

New collaboration aims to address the growing demand for food and fuel by improving the process of photosynthesis.


Ammophila Ammophila

Biofuel from inedible plant material easier to produce

13 Sep 2010

Researchers have discovered key plant enzymes that normally make the energy stored in wood, straw, and other non-edible parts of plants difficult to extract.


Supercharged rice: the answer to famine?

26 May 2009

An ambitious project that aims to increase rice yields could provide the solution to future food shortages.


Clockwork plants

01 May 2008

How do plants tell the time and the passing of the seasons? Plant scientists are enlisting the help of engineers in their quest to uncover the rhythms of circadian clocks.

(Alex Webb)


People specializing in this area


  • Plant development
  • Hybrid vigour
  • Photosynthesis to breed high-yielding crops in changing climates