Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016: highlights

Report highlighting environment and rural economy research outputs, and resulting impact, funded through the programme.


The food and drink industry is a major contributor to Scotland's economy, accounting for one in five manufacturing jobs. Scotland aims to build a 'Good Food Nation' where people benefit from and take pride and pleasure in the food they produce, buy, serve and eat.

Food research was focussed on improving the efficiency, resilience and sustainability of food production in Scotland. This included tools to enable crop and livestock breeding for improved nutritional qualities and for increased resilience to climate change.

Plant Genome Breakthroughs

Mapping a plant's genome can make the slow process of conventionally breeding new plant varieties much quicker, which can lead to breakthroughs in improving yield, quality, nutritional value, enhancing resistance to pests and diseases and to stresses caused by climate change. SRP researchers have made major contributions to long-term international collaborative efforts to map the genome of several plant varieties, and have led the UK teams in these efforts. These include the potato, barley and tomato genome.

For example, SRP researchers have analysed and begun mapping potato genes with resistance to late blight, potato cyst nematodes, viruses and temperature stress, which may enable future varieties to be bred with resistance to these diseases and to environmental threats.

New Crop Varieties

New crop varieties can improve product quality and yield, and are essential in the face of changing climates, disease threats, consumer preferences and market needs. SRP researchers have a strong track record of delivering new cultivars of potatoes and soft fruit. Recent research in conjunction with commercial partners has discovered a range of molecular markers for disease resistance and quality traits in potato which has led to the release of new cultivars 'Mistay', 'Wizard', 'Vales Emerald' and 'Harlequin'. New soft fruit cultivars were also released: 'Ben Lawers' is a blackcurrant variety with enhanced quality and environmental resilience and was released through the breeding programme's sponsor, LR Suntory; while 'Glen Dee' is a raspberry cultivar which combines late-season production with improved fruit quality. Other raspberry lines currently under commercial trial are showing resistance to raspberry root rot - the most economically damaging disease affecting Scottish raspberry cultivation.

Genetic Improvement in Cattle

SRP researchers, with co-funding from industry partners, have developed genetic tools which have led to improved estimated breeding values ( EBVs) of cattle. EBVs are an estimate of the genetic potential of an animal, half of which will be passed on to its offspring. Research with beef cattle has included incorporating industry data to routine genetic evaluations, which is expected to increase EBV accuracy by 15%, potentially resulting in a £100 million benefit for the beef sector. In the dairy sector a number of genetic improvement tools, including indicating the level of Tuberculosis ( TB) resistance, have been estimated to bring economic benefits of £634 million over a five-year period and reduced GHG emissions per breeding animal by 1.4% (in CO 2 equivalents) per annum.

Understanding the Dairy Industry

The dairy sector is vital to Scotland's farming and food sectors and to the wider rural economy. Scotland's 900 dairy farms and 2,000 processing employees generate well over £400 million or 15% of all farming output. Greater understanding of the resilience of the dairy sector was enabled by SRP research, which analysed Scottish production and milk utilisation data, investigated milk prices and scrutinised agreements between producers and buyers, all of which fed into the Scottish Dairy Sector Strategy 'Ambition 2025'. Separate analyses looked at methods to boost the dairy sectors efficiency and competitiveness, and also reviewed UK consumer trends on dairy products. This research aided the formulation of the findings of the Scottish Dairy Sector Review in 2012.


Email: Jenny Watson,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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