Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is an internationally recognised research and teaching centre with a focus on food security and developing a sustainable natural economy. Its history stretches back to 1899 with the establishment of the West of Scotland Agricultural College and its current organisation came into being through a merger of smaller institutions.

SRUC is home to one of the largest groups of animal scientists in Europe. It has 1,300 staff who operate from 6 campuses, 8 farms, 25 consulting offices, 6 research centres and 8 veterinary surveillance centres located primarily across Scotland.

The college has received numerous accolades for its high-quality research. It was awarded Queens Anniversary Prize and was ranked first in the UK by the Research Excellence Framework for Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science.

SRUC’s research on greenhouse gas emissions and farming practices informed Scotland’s Climate Change Plan. The college’s data-driven work on livestock has helped improve the efficiency of UK beef and dairy production, bringing significant economic benefits. 

SRUC research has contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s GHG reporting guidelines and has been adopted by international reporting of GHG emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

What the researchers will be working on

Project: Defining new phenotypes for forage and crop by-products improvement based on rumen function and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

Livestock is a fast-growing, high-value agricultural subsector, accounting for 15–80% of GDP in low- and middle-income countries. In Africa and Asia, demand for livestock products is expected to grow 200% by 2030. However, it also generates a significant proportion of anthropogenic GHG emissions. The main source of methane in ruminants in the rumen or paunch, which is the largest stomach compartment.

Rumen utilisation has been identified as the key to efficient use of forages and by-products whilst minimising GHG emissions. Although it is possible to measure such properties, the lack of high throughput techniques has limited their use as effective phenotyping to improve plant breeding targets.

The project will address this problem by developing feed stuffs that allow animals to meet their genetic potential whilst providing the tools to identify the genes and genetic signatures to develop feedstuffs that minimise the environmental footprint of ruminant agriculture. This project combines expertise in plant breeding and ruminant nutrition within the partnership to develop and exploit new phenotypes for forages and crop residues in ruminant production systems.

Who SRUC will be working with

For this project the UK-CGIAR Centre is building a new partnership between SRUC and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). ILRI, which is part of CGIAR, works for better lives through livestock in developing countries. ILRI is co-hosted by Kenya and Ethiopia, with 14 offices across Asia and Africa.

The partners will share resources and approaches developed independently to achieve a common goal. As the project progresses, the partners will utilise staff exchanges at all levels to promote exchange of resources, techniques and knowledge.

Colleagues from both partners will spend time in each other’s laboratories, facilitating the transfer of techniques and understanding. Partners in the Global South will be involved in seed and forage production, extension, and farmer training together with established partners in the livestock production sector. Training workshops will be held to engage partners across the Global South in the use of rumen-based phenotypes as a means of improving ruminant production from by-products and forages. This work will aims strengthen capacity in the areas of forage improvement and utilisation and animal nutrition and rumen function.