Centenary of the founding of the Plant Breeding Institute

On Wednesday 20th June the John Innes Centre hosted a one-day conference to celebrate the founding of The Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) in Cambridge. Laura Dixon, scientist at the John Innes Centre, was there.

The day consisted of talks and social time where alumni of the PBI, current plant scientists and plant breeders could meet, reminisce about times past and also discuss future plans.

The PBI was founded in 1912 by the British Government and the University of Cambridge with the aim of stimulating growth and development in British agriculture. It was led by the plant breeder William Biffen, whose early success in developing a rust-resistant wheat variety “Little Joss” laid the foundation for the PBI to develop from. Subsequently, a number of successes came from the PBI labs, recognised by four Queens Awards to Industry and the longevity of the varieties developed, such as the Maris Piper potato.

The PBI was privatised in 1987 and funds from this privatisation enabled the establishment of the Cambridge Laboratory in Norwich. This later merged with the John Innes Institute and Nitrogen Fixation Laboratory to form the John Innes Centre.

The work presented at the conference not only looked at the many past successes of the PBI but also its legacy and impact on current plant science research. The talks covered disease resistance, flowering regulation, crop development and breeding, and highlighted some of the current challenges in plant science. These include sequencing the wheat genome, developing sustainable agriculture, and the use of genetic modification in plant breeding.

The day concluded with tours of the JIC plots and a hog roast.



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