Monthly Archives: August 2015

First National Blueberry Day announced

The impact of the first ever National Blueberry Day is still being assessed after it attracted little press coverage outside of Twitter.

Reports ahead of the event, held on 13 August, reported that the event, organised by BerryWorld to raise awareness of blueberries and blueberry recipes would have its own dedicated website and Twitter feed.

However a stand at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent helped to celebrate 20 years of UK blueberry production, while press kits were sent to journalists and there was some radio coverage.

“BerryWorld is proud to have been so heavily involved in growing the blueberry market in the UK over the last 20 years. 42 per cent penetration is a strong sign of the fruit’s popularity, but there is still headroom for growth,” said BerryWorld managing director, Adam Olins.

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CMW & Certhon to build new glass

CMW Horticulture and Certhon are to construct a new block of glass for Harlow-based UK Salads Ltd.

The 13,200 square metre development at UK Salads’ Hoe Lane site in the Lea Valley will enable the company to add home produced speciality tomatoes to their existing product range alongside peppers, cucumbers and aubergines.

The new turnkey greenhouse project will also include a boiler house, irrigation room and packing shed along with water storage tanks and heating system including boiler and buffer.

CMW commented, “This latest co-operative project between CMW Horticulture and Certhon will see Certhon taking care of the greenhouse and heating and CMW working alongside them to supply and install the thermal screens, crop gutters and air tube system.”

Work on the foundations began in early July and it is expected that the first crop will be planted next season.

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Soil Association welcomes Which? report

Consumer group Which? and the Government Office for Science have published a new report on Food System Challenges.

The report summarises the findings of a project, carried out with additional support from Sciencewise, to understand the public’s priorities for Britain’s future food supply and the wider food system. Group discussions took place in London, Paisley and Cardiff, and while the discussions focused on chicken, meat and wheat, many of the conclusions apply to all food including fresh produce.

One of the main findings was that consumers do not know enough about where their food comes from and have a limited understanding that the food system has an impact on the environment. However, there was an awareness of the environmental and transport issues surrounding out of season produce and attempts to reduce food miles.

One dialogue participant said, “I think we’ve all got responsibility there and if we all do our little bit and come together rather than one blaming the other, it’s easy to blame the manufacturers and say it’s one or the other but I think we should all come together on this.”

Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association commented, “This research shows that people will back food and farming policies that deliver a healthier climate, more wildlife and slimmer waistlines. They want the government to deliver radical improvements in agriculture and diets. Defra’s forthcoming 25 Year Food and Farming Plan must reflect this, by committing to far reaching cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and curbing the use of agricultural chemicals in favour of more climate and wildlife friendly approaches. The plan will also need to help people to eat well and this means less and better meat, more fruit and veg and fewer processed foods.”

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Bumper apple crop predicted

According to the latest forecast from the World Apple & Pear Association, Europe is in for a bumper apple crop this year.

Speaking at the recent Prognosfruit conference the WAPA’s Philippe Binard said that larger crops in Poland, Italy, France, Portugal, Slovenia and the Czech Republic would more than compensate for declines in Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Hungary and Greece.

Total apple production in the EU is estimated to be 11.97 million tonnes this year, with the pear crop at 2.34 million tonnes. Although down 5 per cent on last year’s figure, the apple figure is still 11 per cent above the five-year average. Traditionally popular apple varieties such as Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Idared will see falls in production, while more recent introductions like Fuji and Pinova are on the rise.

In the UK, the latest figures from English Apples & Pears show that Sainsbury’s is the top retailer of English apples and pears after selling 42,000 tonnes this season. Of the 26 different apple varieties, and six pears, that Sainsbury’s sold, Gala remains the most popular, accounting for almost a third of the store’s apple sales.

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Project investigates potato greening

NIAB-CUF is to investigate the trade-off between planting depth and tuber greening in a three year study.

Field trials will be conducted in three major growing areas with different soil types: Cambridgeshire, East Anglia and Staffordshire.

“This new study will help us know whether the choice of planting depth is a useful management decision or if there are other, more important factors that determine greening,” said Simon Smart of NIAB-CUF. “One of the conundrums potato farmers face is whether to go for the deeper option to minimise the risk of tubers greening or to opt for the higher yield potential of planting closer to the surface. It is not the case of the seed potato being covered with more soil, because when the crop is planted more deeply the stem stretches out; as a result tubers can still develop close to the surface.”

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Crop pests may be smarter than thought

A new research paper suggests that species of crop pest may be able to evolve quickly enough to cope with climate change, making many current prediction models worthless.

In a new synthesis, published in the Annual Review of Phytopathology, Dr Dan Bebber from the department of Biosciences at the University of Exeter, examines the gaps in knowledge which mean that models based only on climate, designed to predict where crop pests and pathogens are likely to end up, can be misleading.

Using the example of Colorado potato beetle, Dr Bebber pointed out that one leading climate change computer model predicted it would be unable to establish in Kazakhstan and western China. In fact, the pest spread rapidly through the region – entering Xinjiang Province in China from Kazakhstan around 1992.

Dr Bebber said, “Our review has highlighted how difficult it is to predict where damaging crop pests may turn up. Their ability to evolve tolerance to different climates has been investigated in only a few species but has not been considered in distribution models. We now urgently need to improve monitoring and identification of these pests, particularly in the developing world, both for research and to secure food production.”

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Scotland to ban GM crops

The Scottish Government has said that it will use a revised approach to the approval of genetically modified crops to request a ban in the country.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said, “Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment – and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status. There is no evidence of significant demand for GM products by Scottish consumers and I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14 billion food and drink sector.”

However, the move has been condemned by farming leaders north of the border, particularly as it is at odds with Westminster’s attitude towards GM crops. Scott Walker, NFU Scotland Chief Executive said: “Other countries are embracing biotechnology where appropriate and we should be open to doing the same here in Scotland.

“Decisions should be taken on the individual merits of each variety, based on science and determined by whether the variety will deliver overall benefit. These crops could have a role in shaping sustainable agriculture at some point and at the same time protecting the environment which we all cherish in Scotland.

It is unclear whether the ban would apply to scientific and experimental research, but Scotland’s research establishments, including the James Hutton Institute and the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health have been at the forefront of researching the technology.

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Fresh Produce exempted from Operation Stack

New measures to relieve pressure on Operation Stack announced earlier this month include plans to ‘prioritise certain goods across the Channel, including quick to market goods,’ including fresh food and some fresh produce.

A government statement said, ‘In addition quick to market products will be identified as part of the filter procedure on entry to Operation Stack. Such loads will at present be limited to fresh produce which need to be at market within a matter of hours, but will not include other products with a longer life span.’

According to the Fresh Produce Journal, ‘one fresh produce distributor in the Kent region has suffered up to 20 per cent of orders cancelled on one day, and said the issue is now a weekly occurrence.’

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PGRO underlines benefits of pulse crops

PGRO has used the start of the UK pea harvest to underline the benefits of pulses in crop rotations.

“As the pea harvest gets under way, with bean harvest to follow, this is a good time to underline the numerous benefits from growing pulses,” said Roger Vickers, PGRO Chief Executive. “Some have a clear financial value, while others are equally valuable but have less measurable monetary benefits.”

These include the fixation of approximately 250kgs of N/ha. While significant amounts of this are used by the crop itself, the residue from a crop of beans is typically 50–75 kilos N/ha, worth around £60. Unlike any residual nitrogen from other non-leguminous crops, which is derived from paid-for N applied to the previous crop, this N is completely free.

PGRO also stresses that, ‘Spring-grown pulses in particular open up an extended window for cultural and stale seedbed techniques in the fight against blackgrass and other pernicious weeds. Pulses also widen the choice of chemistry available for blackgrass control, giving the grower an improved approach to the problem.’

Other benefits in the PGRO ‘top ten’ include spreading of farm workloads, slug control, soil health and compliance with CAP rules.

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New tool to test ripeness

A crowd-funded Israeli startup company is about to ship its first sensors to the 13,000 people who funded the project via the Kickstarter website.

The SCiO pocket molecular sensor is a handheld near infrared (NIR) spectrometer, which is paired with a Smartphone application and cloud-based database to enable consumers to better understand the contents of foods and other products they buy.

Conventional spectrometers are very large and expensive, and not something a consumer could utilize. However, Consumer Physics’ founders felt that a pocket NIR spectrometer could be very handy for consumers, for example checking the ripeness of fresh foods they select at a grocery store. However, as one potential use of the technology is to check ripeness of fruits and vegetables it could find a use with growers and agronomists.

Consumer Physics is beginning to ship software development kits (SDKs) to the researchers, coders and scientists who backed the project. Each SDK includes a SCiO scanner, case, mini-USB charging cable, as well as access to the SCiO SDK software.

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