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

New Oxford University research will help optimize environmentally friendly ways of fertilising plants

New research from the Departments of Plant Sciences and Engineering Science, as well as collaborators at VU Amsterdam, uses both mathematical modelling and experimental validation to study the metabolic processes controlling how bacteria provide ammonia to legumes, which is vastly important for sustainable agriculture.

Ear to the ground: Locating elephants using ground vibrations

Researchers from the University of Oxford, Mpala Research Center and Save the Elephants, have used a combination of acoustic microphones and seismometers to locate elephants.

Oxford researchers develop tool to predict where people go after a disaster

Researchers at Department of Statistics, University of Oxford, in collaboration with the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), have developed an open source software package to estimate displaced populations post-disaster, currently with a focus on earthquakes and cyclones.

Oxford overseas research facility expands to include diagnostics and genetics testing centre

The Oxford-Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research, known as OSCAR, has marked another significant milestone with the launch of OSCAR-Prenetics Innovation and Technology Centre for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics (the OSCAR-Prenetics ITC).

Artificial Intelligence pioneered at Oxford to detect floods launches into space

A new technology, developed by Oxford researchers, in partnership with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Φ-lab, will pilot the detection of flood events from space. It was deployed on hardware on D-Orbit’s upcoming ‘Wild Ride’ mission being launched by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, 30 June, 20.00 UK time.

New study finds elephants show risk-avoidance behaviour in response to human-generated seismic cues

Researchers at the University of Oxford and Save the Elephants have found evidence that African elephants (Loxodonta africana) listen and react to ground vibrations created by human activity.