Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click on 'Find out more' to see our Cookie statement.

Researchers in the Department of Chemistry have developed a crop stimulant that increases yields by 20%.

Ripe wheat

Global food security is threatened by increasing population and climate change. To meet the increasing global demands, crop yields must double in the next 35 years. Professor Ben Davis from Oxford University has partnered with Dr Matthew Paul at Rothamsted Research to develop a first-in-class chemical solution which is currently the only method for increasing crop yield that can keep up with this increasing demand. Driven by the success of the technology and commercial interest received, the spin-out company SugaROx has been formed to produce and sell this novel compound.

The SugaROx compound consists of a sugar molecule (trehalose-6-phsphate, T6P) essential for yield formation in plants, and a light-cleavable group that allows membrane permeation. The SugaROx method enables targeted increase in T6P to elevate the capacity for starch synthesis and increase photosynthetic rate.

A glass-house trial conducted on wheat showed increased grain size and yield per plant by up to 20%. This trial was published in Nature (Griffiths et al. 2016, Nature) and resulted in interest by several companies who will be the first customers of SugaROx. A large-scale field trial is now in progress and will form the basis for regulatory approval.

In addition to increasing yield, the T6P precursors also stimulate growth recovery after drought, allow control of specific processes, such as flowering time, and screening for genetic variation in processes that determine yield.

In April the SugaROx team were invited to pitch at the Investment Catalyst hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry and UK Business Angels Associations. The presentation was well received and SugaROx are now in discussions with a number of investors who would like to support the company going forward. Future developments for SugaROx include scale-up of production of the compounds, field trials in a range crops and toxicity testing for regulatory approval. SugaROx will need to recruit a team of people to carry out this work and to manage the company to ensure its continued success.

Similar stories

Chemistry researchers to develop novel energy and bioelectronic materials with new EPSRC Programme Grant

Professors Andrew Goodwin and Iain McCullogh in the Department of Chemistry are part of the team of 10 researchers at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge that will be at the forefront of work that on a new generation of soft functional materials.

Seven MPLS researchers elected to the Royal Society

In all, eight scientists from the University of Oxford have joined the Royal Society as Fellows. All but one are from departments in MPLS Division.

Sale of donkey skins linked to trade in illegal wildlife products

Newly published research from WildCRU in the Department of Zoology, in collaboration with the Saïd Business School, raises important concerns about whether the trade in donkey skins is being used as a cover for smuggling elephant tusks, pangolin scales and other illegal wildlife products.

New Biochemistry Building renamed the Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Building

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin made key contributions to Medical Sciences and was the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Wytham Woods’ Great Tit study celebrates 75 years and reveals how spring has advanced a calendar month in that time

On 27 April 1947, the first Great Tit egg of the year was counted in the University of Oxford's 'living laboratory' at Wytham Woods. It was to be the start of a deep and on-going relationship between the bird population and generations of researchers.

Oxford Chemistry launches the inaugural Jamie Ferguson Chemistry Innovation Award

This award has been created as a legacy to Dr Jamie Ferguson of Oxford University Innovation, who tragically died in August 2020 after succumbing to COVID-19.