SCIENTISTS at a Scottish university are being given £90 million in UK Government funding for their cutting-edge research into developing genetically modified crops that are more nutritious and flood and drought resistant.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates will visit the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus today where he will announce $40m (£28m) funding towards the research from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Millions of farmers in Africa, who depend on agriculture to support their families, struggle to grow enough crops to put food on the table because of natural disasters such as flooding and drought.

The Edinburgh teams are using their expertise to identify specific genes that help them become more nutritious, grow faster and more resilient to disease and extreme weather. It is estimated their work will help up to 100 million African farmers lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

At the University of Edinburgh, scientists are also researching diseases which cause huge economic losses for African farmers, such as Animal African Trypanosomiasis (AAT), which kills more than three million cattle every year – costing the economy around $4 billion (£2.8bn) a year.

However, scientists believe they can develop a new drug to treat it within the next five years.

The research, being carried out by CGIAR – previously known as Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research – could also help British farmers who face similar threats in the future.

Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, who is announcing the research, said: “Unpredictable flooding, plant diseases and drought are threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers in Africa who struggle to grow enough crops to put food on the table – the urgency of the task is clear.

“New ideas, cutting-edge science and innovative partnerships with organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will help Britain create a healthier, more secure and prosperous world for us all.”

She will also announce plans to develop the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, which is based in both Edinburgh and Nairobi. It applies the most recent advances in genetics and genomics, used in the UK, to help smallholder dairy and poultry farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Easter Bush Campus has several organisations involved in this work including the Roslin Institute – home of Dolly the cloned sheep – and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

Scotland’s Rural College and the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) are also nearby.

The Gates’ funding will go to GALVmed, a public-private partnership in Edinburgh which develops livestock vaccines and medicines, and makes them accessible to millions of the poorest farmers across Africa and South Asia.

Gates is expected to say: “The science and research being led by the great minds here in Edinburgh are making huge strides in improving the health and productivity of livestock.

“With this investment in GALVmed, we can take advantage of the UK’s leading R&D capabilities to fight the spread of livestock diseases, both protecting animals in the developing world and here in the UK.

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s investment of $40m will help GALVmed make vaccines, medicines and diagnostics accessible to millions of the world’s poorest smallholder farmers.”

GALVmed chief executive, Peter Jeffries, said: “The challenges for smallholder farmers are numerous.

“With this new funding, we expect to offer simpler solutions to their needs through an enhanced portfolio of high-impact products and improved distribution networks, offering improved control of livestock diseases.”