Monthly Archives: September 2015

Best UK cherry season in 30 years

Trade organisation British Summer Fruits says that UK growers are set to harvest 4,500 tonnes of cherries this year, making this year the most productive season in more than 30 years.

However, despite this demand for home grown cherries still outstrips supply. The growth in production is reported to be down to dynamic young growers who have tapped into the burgeoning demand for British cherries. Record sales this year could exceed £32 million, with demand continuing to grow.

MD of cherry producer Haygrove, James Waltham, said, “Thanks to a combination of great varieties which are better suited to the UK climate, year-on-year performance of cherry orchards in general is far more consistent than it used to be, bringing greater yield and superior quality fruit.

“The British cherry season is also growing. Where it once lasted barely two months, the season now extends from early June until early September; thanks both to new varieties and modern growing systems, particularly the use of polytunnels.”

Tesco cherry buyer Tom Emmett commented, “Shoppers prefer British cherries as they’re considered to be amongst the best in the world – not only the richness of their taste but also the juiciness of their flesh and overall texture. Nothing beats a British cherry.

“It’s all about availability – if we can get British grown cherries then we know our shoppers will buy them. They are extremely popular and one of the absolute joys of summer.”

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New tractor finance from John Deere

John Deere Financial has announced a new finance programme for customers of its compact tractor range in the UK.

This includes the 1R, 2R, 3R and 4R Series models with power outputs from 25 to 66hp. Some models also have a choice of AutoConnect drive-over rotary mower decks and, on selected models, the company’s award-winning Hitch Assist system, which makes coupling up implements and trailers to the tractor’s rear hitch quicker, easier and safer.

Available to business customers until further notice, the finance offer is for 4 + 44 monthly repayments at an overall flat interest rate per annum of only 1 per cent, based on 60 per cent of the recommended retail price. Using the example of its smallest model, the 1026R, John Deere Financial says that an initial financed payment of £586.16 would be followed by 44 payments of £146.54, based on a retail price of £11,273 and a net deposit of £2029.20, giving a representative APR of just 3 per cent. The VAT can be paid in total on signing a hire purchase agreement, or on each payment on a finance lease scheme.

“This tractor finance offer is ahead of anything else currently available on the market,” says John Deere Limited turf division manager Chris Meacock. “Financing new equipment in this way can help any business to forecast and fix its capital investment costs, while also taking advantage of the latest available technology.”

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Tong: Five-line potato peeling at M&F

Processed potato supplier M&F Ltd, based in Woodmansey, East Yorkshire, has installed a new potato processing and peeling facility, to increase the throughput and efficiency of its potato handling operations.

M&F Ltd supply processed potatoes to companies who further process the potatoes into ready meals for the UK’s major supermarkets and handles more than 100,000 tonnes of potatoes per year.

In order to update their current processing operations, M&F Ltd required a complete potato handling facility. As part of a turnkey project Spilsby-based Tong Engineering designed to five independent peeling lines for optimum throughput. The new facility gently handles the potatoes from receiving dirty crop in boxes to packing the processed crop ready for despatch.

Graham Stark, Managing Director at M&F Ltd, explains, “Demand for processed crop continues to increase and in line with this, our peeling facilities needed some additions and upgrades to cope with the amount and variation of crop we now need to process on a daily basis. We handle between 1,200 and 1,800 tonnes of potatoes a week and we needed a very efficient potato processing line to handle our crop. We have worked with Tong Engineering for a number of years and they have supplied us with grading and handling equipment that has helped to significantly improve the efficiency of our operations.”

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New apprentice training for John Deere

John Deere has appointed ProVQ as its new partner to deliver the company’s award winning apprentice training programmes.

ProVQ was established in 2005 to apply this training expertise to apprentice programmes and today it trains over 600 apprentices and hundreds of adult learners on technical, parts and customer service programmes for key players in the automotive industry.

For the new training year starting this autumn, first year apprentices will be based from November at a new Apprentice Training Centre located at Radcliffe-on-Trent, 15 minutes away from John Deere Limited’s headquarters at Langar, Nottingham. The second and third year apprentice programmes will also transfer to the new location.

“I believe this new partnership with ProVQ will enable our apprenticeship training to maintain its position as the benchmark programme for the agricultural and turf industries,” says John Deere Limited training centre manager Richard Halsall. “The arrangements we have put in place to ensure continuity of training provision should make the transfer as seamless as possible.”

A new registration page is now live on the ProVQ Apprenticeship finder website, at

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Sainsbury’s moves to top spot for English apples and pears

Sainsbury’s has regained the No1 position for English apples and pears, with over 42,000 tonnes of the home grown fruits sold this season, making it the biggest crop for any supermarket. Selling nearly 300 million apples and pears makes this the biggest season for Sainsbury’s to date according to independent figures released by English Apples and Pears Ltd.

Sainsbury’s has a record-breaking season for the biggest crop, with customers buying over 42,000 tonnes, equal to 298 million pieces of fruit and Gala apples proving to be the most popular across the UK.

This year’s top crop is the Gala apple with 12,300 tonnes of the variety, equal to 71 million apples.

Dr Theresa Huxley, Sainsbury’s apples and pear technologist said: “It’s fantastic to see customers making the most of the fantastic range of home grown fruit we have on offer.”

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2015 has seen low blight pressure so far

The start of the 2015 potato season has one of the lowest levels of confirmed blight incidences since AHDB Potatoes ‘Fight against Blight’ service began in 2003 says the levy body.

“Following the 2014 season of high blight pressure it was anticipated control would be challenging,” said Claire Hodge, AHDB Potatoes blight specialist. “However, the cold start and the low level of Smith periods combined with robust control implemented by growers, has meant blight has not materialised as expected.”

She urged that growers contact their nearest Blight Scout so that samples of outbreaks could be sent to FERA to analysis: “Perhaps the strains present this year are the really resilient types which are active at lower temps. But we have to have the evidence base to understand this.”

“Blight has been pretty scarce,” confirmed Yorkshire based John Sarup of SPUD Agronomy. “Most ware growers I work with in Northern England have been on 8-10 day spray intervals but still using fairly robust chemistry, I suspect that at the end of the season they might have saved one or two passes but not a great deal product cost wise.”

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AHDB Potatoes urges growers to grade safely

AHDB Potatoes has issued a series of ‘Safe Potato operations’ training modules covering grading and other key activities ahead of this year’s harvesting period.

According to Phil Bradshaw, AHDB Potatoes Technical Executive, harvesting and grading operations within the GB potato industry have seen two fatalities and four serious injuries in the past five years. AHDB reminds growers that they have a legal duty of care to their staff in preparation for the harvest.

“These modules are designed for training groups of employees in safe harvesting and grading practices” explains Phil. “At the end of the module you can test understanding and print a certificate of training for each participant. The certificate should be retained as proof of your training.

“The training focuses on the safe operation of grading and harvesting machinery with emphasis on the safe stop procedure. This is in addition to the need for care in the set-up of machines to avoid damage, in particular the bruising of potatoes.”

The ‘Safe Potato Operations’ training modules are available at

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GRODAN joins vertical farming association

Growing media company GRODAN has joined the Association for Vertical Farming, saying that the move will help it to play a part in safeguarding the strategic future of vertical farming and the development of this new high-tech horticultural sector.

“We should use the long established strengths of high-tech horticulture and apply them via customer driven innovation,” said Stuart Lambie, Sustainability Manager at GRODAN. “As the world faces some major challenges in the upcoming decades, sustainable food production is becoming more and more important. GRODAN wants to help tackle Global Challenges by developing high-tech solutions based on the principle of doing more with less, while always taking care for the wellbeing of people and environment.

“We believe that GRODAN can become a great partner for the Association for Vertical Farming in this quest. We believe that GRODAN can make a difference and contribute to our joint Global Challenges, helping food producers to save water and other resources whilst supplying increasing quantities of healthy, fresh produce to an increasingly urbanised global population.”

The new sector of controlled environment agriculture is still developing and GRODAN says it will work closely with the other members of the Association to perfect the technology that will work in particular situations. “Working with the Association for Vertical Farming, and its partners, to optimize this ground-breaking technology is going to be an exciting textbook lesson in collaboration and productivity,” continues Stuart. “We see a role in bringing more than 45 years of knowledge and experience in soilless cultivation at GRODAN together with other forces in the field of vertical farming from research. We look forward to deepening our partnership over years to come.”

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