Monthly Archives: December 2015

Agricultural income per worker falls

Real agricultural income in the European Union (EU) has fallen by 6.0% in 2015 compared with 2014, while agricultural labour input has dropped by 1.8% according to the latest estimated figures from the European Commission. As a result, real agricultural income per worker in the EU has decreased by 4.3% in 2015.

However, the picture is mixed with thirteen member states showing increases in income per worker while fifteen reported falls. For the UK income per agricultural worker fell 19.3% compared with the previous year, representing a 21.6% decline on 2010 figures. Germany was the worst performing country seeing incomes fall by 37.6%.

According to Eurostat, which compiled the figures from national data, the biggest falls in output value were for sugar beet, grain maize, milk, pigs and forage. In terms of crop production across the EU the value of fresh vegetables rose 12.1%, with fruit up 7.3% and wine up 2.5%.

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Burnley grocer fined for selling defective produce

In the second such story in a few weeks, a Burnley shopkeeper has been fined for selling rotten fruit and vegetables following an investigation by the Rural Payments Agency’s Horticultural Marketing inspectors.

Mohammad Zakur and his company All Fresh Fruit & Veg Ltd was fined £2,440 at Burnley Magistrates Court on 4 December 2015 after an HMI investigation in April 2015 found 11 regulated displays breaking EU marketing rules for fresh produce quality and labelling, including pears and lemons which failed to meet the lowest marketable standards permitted. Mr Zakur entered guilty pleas on both his and the company’s behalf to all 11 charges.

Rural Payments Agency Operations Director Paul Caldwell said, ““In this case, a series of risk-based inspection visits were made to the store where we offered advice and guidance on how the marketing standards can add real value to a business. Mr Zakur failed to ensure the quality and labelling of the fresh produce he was offering on sale to consumers met the required minimum standards.”

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Black raspberries healthier than red

The black raspberry may be less well known than its red or even yellow cousins, but new research from Poland has propelled it into the media spotlight with claims that it is the latest super food.

A team of researchers from the University of Agriculture in Krakow measured antioxidants in black raspberries, red raspberries and blackberries and their potential health benefits. They found that the antioxidant activity of the fruit had a direct relationship with their health promoting properties. Of the fruit tested, black raspberries had the most antioxidants, with a level three times higher than red raspberries or blackberries.

Writing in the journal Open Chemistry the scientists concluded that black raspberries have a ‘potentially huge health-beneficial value’ and ‘should be considerably better promoted.’

The study also showed that black raspberries had a higher levels of secondary metabolites and there was no significant difference in antioxidant levels whether fruit was harvested in summer or autumn.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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Tesco re-introduces ‘Festive Five’ at even lower price

In the most recent example of extreme retailer discounting of fruit and vegetables, Tesco has reintroduced its ‘Festive Five’ fresh produce promotion on key lines, but at a sale price 20 per cent less than last year.

The promotion includes 2.5 kg of white potatoes, 1kg packs of carrots, 500 g packs of Brussels sprouts and parsnips and whole cauliflowers at a retail price of just 39p. A Tesco spokesperson told The Grocer, “The Festive Five offers shoppers great value deals on great quality produce.”

The promotion is seen as a direct response to Aldi’s long-running Super Six and the Co-Op’s Fresh Three promotions, both of which share the 39p price point since. However, with produce always selling well over the festive period, in particular potatoes, carrots and sprouts, many in the industry will question the wisdom of taking value from key products in the hope that it is offset by increased sales. It may however help suppliers deal with a glut of cauliflowers caused by unseasonably warm weather.

Photo Credit: Tesco

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New soil seminar announced

Howesman Agriculture and New Generation Agriculture have teamed up to present a new seminar on soil health for UK farmers.

The two-day event, titled: Soil Health and Your Wealth, will be held in Peterborough on 9th and 10th February 2016. Hosted by leading crop nutrition expert and speaker Graeme Sait, the topics covered include, ‘soil health, plant health and animal health. More recently, that emphasis has expanded to include planetary health, in recognition of the link between humus and carbon sequestration. He is also an expert in human nutrition and his fascinating presentations cover every aspect of wellness.’

Proprietor of Howesman Agriculture, Andrew Howseman, commented, “Last year Graeme gave a TEDxNoosa speech in America last year which has generated global interest in Humus. This really is the best £150 you will spend in February.”

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New research on raspberry cane dormancy

New research suggests that longer periods of cold storage could help to break dormancy in raspberry canes, resulting in higher numbers of buds and bigger yields.

Crop scientists compared the growth of long-cane raspberry plants (Rubus idaeus L. ‘Maurin Makea’) in a polytunnel and an open field to study how nursery growing conditions affected their quality and cropping potential.

The plants were then cold-stored at –1ºC for different periods of time before forcing them in a greenhouse in order to determine how the duration of cold storage affected their carbohydrate status, cropping potential and performance after storage.

The authors write, ‘We conclude that, under high-latitude conditions, the maximum cropping potential was achieved by raising raspberry long-cane plants in a tunnel.  Moreover, while a cold storage period of 12 weeks was too short to overcome dormancy effects, 20 weeks of cold storage resulted in a high cropping potential in the cultivar studied here.’

The post New research on raspberry cane dormancy appeared first on Hort News on 10 December 2015.

UK food supply at risk from climate change

Retailer Asda has attempted to map the risks of climate change and, according to chief executive Andy Clarke it is one of the biggest issues facing the industry.

The BBC reports that the supermarket giant estimates that as much as 95 per cent of its fresh produce supplies could be affected by rising global temperatures, principally by reduced water availability. Both UK and imported produce could be affected with a resulting increase in prices.

“Climate change is a big industry and a big global issue, and we’ve been working hard to understand them so we can try to get ahead,” Mr Clarke told the BBC. “”We’ve seen, over the course of the last decade, rising temperatures across the world.” The company is working with growers in Spain and the UK to mitigate some of the effects of climate change.

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BBC reports ‘slavery’ on Lincolnshire farms

On Thursday (3 December) BBC Look North carried a report which it claimed had “lifted the lid” on “allegations of modern slavery in the fields of Lincolnshire.”

Reporter Linsey Smith said many eastern European migrants working in fields and packhouses in Lincolnshire felt “abused, exploited and worthless.” One unnamed woman who was prepared to appear on camera said her former supervisor regularly offered female workers money in exchange for sex. Ms Smith said she had interviewed ten migrants and had heard “countless” other anecdotes about poor treatment.

The programme said that the complaints referred to “several” different gangmasters, but it focused primarily on Boston-based Local Link Recruitment as an undercover reporter “experienced at first hand the high pressure environment.” Specific allegations included a lack of waterproof clothing, working at night, a lack of ‘safety gloves’, wage deductions for transport and that Rafal Czerwiak, who was filmed during the report, was acting as an un-licenced gangmaster.

In a statement Local Link Managing Director Iowna Lebiedowicz denied all of the allegations and stressed that Mr Czerwiak runs his own business, Viva Bonta Ltd, which provided transport for Local Link. In addition she stressed that, “All staff are provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) including high-visibility jackets, wellington boots, gloves and wet weather clothing and supervisors have spare equipment in their vehicles. Workers who want to wear their own PPE are welcome to do so; however, we are required to check that it is up to an acceptable standard for their own protection.”

On Look North, Boston & Skegness MP Matt Warman commented, “It’s shocking and depressing that it’s still going on. This is an issue I have raised with the Home Secretary.” He also referred to the Government’s consultation on the future of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

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Energy crop in trials to restore flood plain soils

Farmers looking for a crop to grow on flood-prone land, and help improve soils after flooding, can also provide fuel for biomass by growing miscanthus according to new trials.

These have shown that the crop survives in water-logged land and its effect on the soil after flooding. The trials are being run by the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University and Terravesta and are being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

“We know miscanthus has the ability to tolerate flooding when it’s mature, but there’s a gap in the data about its tolerance during its establishment stage, and this is during the first two years of growth,” said plant physiologist Dr Sarah Purdy. “What’s really exciting about these trials is that we’re also going to analyse the health of the soil, following the floods, when compared to other land-uses.”

The trials will see the biomass crop, miscanthus, grown on commercial flood-prone sites, on plot-scale sites and in controlled environments under glass, to monitor how the crop copes with prolonged flooding. They will also be able to establish whether the crop can increase soil stability.

Photo Credit: Pinstone Communications

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John Innes Centre edits crop genes

A team of scientists from the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory (UK), have shown that the very latest gene-editing technology CRISPR, can be used to make targeted changes or edits to specific genes.

The trials were carried out using a broccoli-like brassica and barley, and showed that the edits were preserved in subsequent generations. Crucial for GMO research, it was also possible to segregate and remove the transgenes used during the editing process so that subsequent generations of plants are indistinguishable in their make up from plants which have been conventionally bred.

Professor Wendy Harwood, one of the lead authors said, “The beauty of the CRISPR technique is that it can create small changes in specific genes; sufficient to stop them working. Stopping particular genes from working is one way to develop disease resistant crops, for example with resistance to mildew or to produce crops without unwanted compounds including toxins. The final plants produced in this way have no additional DNA inserted so they are essentially the same as plants with naturally occurring changes to genes or plants that have been bred using conventional mutation breeding methods.”

Photo Credit: BBSRC

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