SCIENTISTS at Rothamsted Research North Wyke in Devon are working in partnership with Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences to develop new grasses that enable grassland soils to capture increased volumes of rainfall, thereby reducing the risk of flooding downstream.

The five-year £2.5m LINK project named SUREROOT is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and match-funded by a range of industrial partners from across the food production spectrum, including a seed company, a major retailer and the meat, poultry and dairy industries.

Large areas of the UK are facing continued and widespread threats from flood damage that is causing the UK economy and agricultural production significant losses (an estimated £600m in 2012).

Many river catchments are upland grasslands predominating in the wettest areas of the UK. If the rates of surface run-off could be reduced and rainfall captured more effectively by grassland soils, the worst impacts of heavy rainfall downstream may be reduced.

The SUREROOT project builds on earlier BBSRCfunded research published last year in the Nature Journal Scientific Reports (Scientific Reports SREP-12-- 03690.3d) where it was reported that a forage grass hybrid known as Festulolium and designed originally for livestock agriculture, also held a hidden underground and previously unknown property.