Wales

Brexit uncertainty as Aberystwyth University department turns 100

Dr Judith Thornton
Image caption Dr Thornton said there were concerns about what would happen to funding after Brexit

Plant scientists at a Welsh university say they worry about the future of their department on a "weekly basis".

The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

When the department opened in 1919, its purpose was to find ways of producing more food after the First World War.

Today, staff say Brexit is causing uncertainty about the future of the internationally-renowned centre.

Scientist Dr Judith Thornton said money was an ongoing concern for the department.

'There is concern'

She said: "We have the technology to create change here; what we need is more motivation from people.

"This project is funded through European money, and we worry about money on a weekly basis. There is concern and who knows what will happen with Brexit and its effect on research."

Dr Thornton's work is to look for alternative uses for grass, including as fuel, plastic, fibre, card or building materials.

Her project is one of many that are funded through the European Regional Development Fund.

Alan Lovatt, who has worked in IBERS for 45 years, said he had seen the research evolve over the years.

"The innovative work done back then has laid the foundations for the work which is done today," he said.

Image copyright Aberystwyth University
Image caption Scientists at work in 1946
Image copyright Aberystwyth University
Image caption Scientists working out in the field in 1954

"We have moved on, but we still do the same types of thing they were doing in 1919.

"In 1938 came the first high point of research - the first type of grass ever created: S23."

He added: "There are lots of different types with us today which are more productive, of a better quality and preserve better."

Image copyright Aberystwyth University
Image caption The Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus aims to link academia and industry

Aberystwyth University is about to open a new campus on its Gogerddan site, near the village of Penrhyncoch, which is costing £40.5m - almost half of which has come from the EU.

The Aberystwyth Enterprise and Innovation campus aims to improve the collaboration between academia and industry.

IBERS was set up after Sir Lawrence Phillips donated £10,000 - equivalent to £500,000 today - towards agricultural research.

Image copyright Aberystwyth University
Image caption Workers cross-breeding ryegrass in the 1960s
Image copyright Aberystwyth University
Image caption A scientist counts chromosomes through a microscope in the 1950s

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