Europe predicts downturn in tomato consumption

The European Union says that it expects European tomato production to fall in response to reducing consumption across the region.

2018 production was 6.9 million tonnes, but a report on the EU’s agricultural prospects from 2018 to 2030 estimates that by 2030 this figure will drop to 6.7 million tonnes. Despite the fall in production, yields are anticipated to increase, ‘thanks to the installation of artificial light in the greenhouses and the extension of the season in the most important producing countries.’

By 2030, domestic consumption will fall from the current level 14.5kg per person to 13.6kg. However, while fresh tomato exports from the EU have reduced 0.3% a year over the last ten years, mainly due to the Russian produce veto in 2014. However the report predicts that exports will increase to 200,000 tons by 2030. This is 1.6% more than the average of the past five years. Tomato imports, particularly from Morocco and Turkey are expected to continue to grow by 0.4% per year until 2030.

While UK production only accounts for 0.5% of total EU tomato production, it is the most important market for EU tomatoes, currently accounting for 72% of total exports, most of which come from the Netherlands and Spain.2

Photo Credit: Pexels

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New varieties for East Malling Strawberry Breeding Club

A new factsheet from AHDB Horticulture summarises the attributes of the main varieties released in the second tranche of the East Malling Strawberry Breeding Club, as well as details of promising selections developed during the same period.

Three varieties from the second tranche (which started in 2013) are in the process of being commercialised. The late-season June-bearer Malling Allure (EM2157) and the disease resistant Everbearers Malling Champion (EMR564) and EMR639. 

Malling Allure is described as ‘a robust plant, with moderate vigour in comparison with other late-season varieties.’ It is 10-12 days later than Elsanta and has fruit quality similar to Malling Centenary. Malling Champion is ‘an early season Everbearer, which produces its peak harvest in July and picks steadily through August.’ It is resistant to crown rot (Phytophthora cactorum) and wilt (Verticillium dahliae) and shows moderate resistance to powdery mildew (Podosphaera aphanis), as does EMR639.

Six other selections from the programme are due to advance to large scale grower trials, including two June-bearers and four Everbearers. The East Malling Strawberry Breeding Club (EMSBC) was formed in 2008 to continue the national strawberry programme that began at East Malling Research in 1983. The second tranche of AHDB-funded work runs until 2023.

Photo Caption: Malling Allure

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Finding value in liquid waste streams

Waste is increasingly viewed as a resource. From well-established practices such as recycling paper and aluminium, to the development of the circular economy, an increasing volume of resources are now being recovered from materials that were previously seen only as inconvenient wastes.

Waste valorisation is the process of recovering value from waste materials, for example through reusing or recycling them, or by composting or anaerobically digesting them and converting them into more useful products such as materials, chemicals, fuels or other sources of energy. In a circular economy, compared to a linear one, the materials within products are reused, turning previously burdensome wastes into valuable resources. Moving to a circular economy can have a positive effect on economic growth and strengthen the competitiveness of companies, in addition to providing a number of environmental benefits.

The European Union has proposed to double its rate of resource productivity by 2030 and as part of this, adopted a communication, Towards a circular economy: a zero waste programme for Europe, in July 2014.

Unleashing the potential for liquid waste streams
Wastewater treatment and ‘water mining’ has been identified as a key platform on which to base the technological development of such circular production systems. In addition, every cubic metre of recycled or reused water results in a corresponding reduction in mains water demand and wastewater discharge. There are also benefits in terms of energy and carbon footprint, and waste streams are increasingly being viewed as a resource for the development of bio-based products and processes.

Examples of resource recovery
While we are still a significant way away from the commercial development of large scale biorefineries, parts of this process are already established. The use of anaerobic digestion is now widespread, and there are various examples of material recovery from different waste streams in operation at various scales around the world.

Some examples include:

  • Recovery of phosphorous from sewage for use as agricultural fertilisers.
  • The potential recovery of biopolymers from the wastewater from olive mills.
  • Treating cheese whey wastewater to produce products for food manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.
  • The recovery of spent yeast products for use in food production.

Fruit processing is another sector that is ideally placed to capitalise on the potential value of some of its waste products. Citrus peel waste accounts for up to half the total volume of citrus fruit processed globally and is a potential source of many useful products including dietary fibre, antioxidants, food colorants and flavours, and contains a wide variety of compounds.

Moving towards zero liquid discharge
Zero liquid discharge (ZLD) is a technique by which liquid waste streams are eliminated: any wastewater is purified and recycled, while other residues, which often include the type of valuable by-products mentioned above, are extracted.

Various processes are employed in ZLD, but evaporation is a key process, both in order to concentrate residues sufficiently to allow their economic extraction or physical removal, and as part of the water purification process. However, solid-liquid mixtures are complex and it is important that the first stage of any potential project includes a research study to evaluate the nature of the waste stream/s and the saturation levels required.

HRS Heat Exchangers have been involved in ZLD projects in Europe using evaporation systems, including the recovery of potassium and sodium sulphates from organic brine waste streams.

For more information on how HRS Zero liquid discharge systems can be used to recover valuable resources from your waste stream, please contact us today.

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No-deal Brexit will lead to gap in crop availability

Riverford founder and organic grower Guy Singh-Watson has warned that a no-deal Brexit will increase the gap in crop availability from March to May.

He told reporters that the availability of many UK grown organic crops such as kale, cabbage, greens, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, swedes, apples, onions and potatoes all come to an end in March, while the harvest of new-season produce does not start until mid-May.

“For 30 years, Riverford has struggled with this reality – we even suspend our UK-only veg box from March to June because we often cannot find eight UK-grown items to put in it,” said Mr Singh-Watson. “While at Riverford, we import 30 per cent of our produce in the fallow March-May period, as a nation, we import about 50 per cent of our fruit and vegetables. And that figure starts to rise in the New Year, reaching about 80 per cent in April before falling again in June.

“If there was a “best time for a no-deal Brexit”, it would be July to September, as any gardener could tell our politicians. Were we to leave without a deal there couldn’t be a worse time than March 29, unless you like woody swedes and sprouting potatoes!” To fill gaps in UK production Riverford has established partnerships with small-scale organic suppliers in Spain, France, Italy and further afield.2

Photo Caption: Riverford already suspends sales of its UK-only veg box from March until June.

Photo Credit: Riverford

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M&S trials plastic-free produce

As part of efforts to reduce plastic in the supply chain, M&S is trialling its first plastic-free loose fruit and vegetable department at its Tolworth store.

As well as ditching the packaging, M&S has introduced trained greengrocers, who will be on hand to offer customers valuable advice as they select from two aisles of fruit and vegetables free of plastic packaging. The range not only includes hard fruit and veg like potatoes and bananas, but also more perishable items such as soft fruits and berries, which will be retailed in compostable punnets, and best before date labels have been removed.

Louise Nicholls, Head of Food Sustainability, said, “We’re proud to launch a series of market-leading initiatives to help our customers take home less plastic. “Our trial at Tolworth is an important milestone in our plastic reduction journey and bringing back the traditional greengrocer will play a key part in educating our customers. Our plan is to create long-term impact in the future using tangible insights from the Tolworth store trial.”

M&S has committed to launching additional lines of loose produce and more sustainable alternatives to plastic in every UK store, which could save 580 tonnes of plastic waste over two years alone. The plan will also involve replacing plastic produce bags with paper ones and phasing out plastic barcode stickers in favour of eco-friendly alternatives. M&S Senior Packaging Technologist Kevin Vyse spoke at the recent UK Brassica & Leafy Salad Conference which will be reported in the March issue of The Vegetable Farmer.

Photo Credit: M&S

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Natural orchards improve bee diversity and improve apple production

Apple orchards surrounded by agricultural lands are visited by a less diverse collection of bee species than orchards surrounded by natural habitats, according to a new study led by Cornell University in the United States.

By looking at 10 years of data from 27 apple orchards in New York state the researchers found that apple production suffers when fewer, more closely-related species of bees pollinate an orchard. Production improves in orchards surrounded by natural habitats, which then draw a broader selection of species to apple blossoms. The study looked at the types of landscapes that surrounded the orchards, measured apple production and surveyed the species of bees that visited each orchard.

“Orchards that have bee communities that are more closely related to each other did worse in terms of their fruit production, and the communities that are more broad across the phylogeny did much better,” said one of the report’s authors, Dr Heather Grab. 

Species of bees exhibit different behaviours in how and when they pollinate flowers. Some species approach from the side, others from the top, and they each may feed at different times of day and with varied frequencies, all of which affect how completely an apple flower is pollinated.

Organs in apple flowers must receive a certain number of pollen grains in order to develop a full complement of seeds. When seeds do well, the tissue that supports those seeds, the fleshy part of the fruit, is also more fully developed. “If only half of the seeds mature fully, then the fruit is misshapen,” which in turn affects weight and saleability, Grab added.

Photo Caption: A carpenter bee visiting an apple flower

Photo Credit: Cornell University

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Soil borne fungi to suppress greenhouse pests

The new EU-funded project Greenresilient aims to study the ways in which pests and diseases are often suppressed by various naturally-occurring enemies and antagonists which can be found in cropping systems.

Within the project, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is focussing on the role of beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Several strains of entomopathogenic fungi have already been isolated from five organic greenhouses across Europe, which have shown the potential to increases the resilience of plants to above-ground pests by acting as endophytes that induce plant resistance and/or produce toxic metabolites.

As part of the work, WUR will evaluate the isolated entomopathogens as endophytes in tomato plants to assess their effects on tobacco whiteflies, Bemisia tabaciand the South American tomato pinworm, Tuta absoluta. The aim is to better understand the role of these fungi in aboveground pest suppression and to find ways to enhance the presence and impact of these beneficial fungi.

The same soils will also be analysed by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who will focus on the interaction between soil microbial communities and suppression of soil-borne diseases.1

Photo Caption: A fly infected by entomopathogenic fungus

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Alejandro Santillana / University of Texas at Austin

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Purple Tenderstem variety launched

M&S is to sell a new purple variety of Tenderstem sprouting broccoli which will be launched by brand marketing company Coregeo as Tenderstem Royale.

Royale® is claimed to have “a more mellow and buttery flavour, a distinct darker coloured stem with purple hues, like the popular purple sprouting broccoli, but much more versatile, as well as being quicker and easier to cook.”

M&S Vegetable Buyer Jo Oliver commented, “We know customers are on the lookout for healthy options, especially in January, and the new Tenderstem Royale offers them an exciting new ingredient to experiment with. It’s great for adding to stir fries, steaming or cooked on a griddle pan and drizzled with oil. We’re delighted that M&S customers get to try it first.”

According to the Tenderstem website, ‘As we are all living increasingly busy lives, now more than ever there is a demand for vegetables that are easy to cook, have no prep time and no waste, while offering a balance of flavours. It is sure to be the new vegetable that everyone will want to try at their next dinner party, or an easy way to introduce a new, colourful veggie to their favourite mid-week menu.’

The new variety was bred by Sakata Europe, and Managing Director of Sakata UK, Stuart Cox, added, “The popularity of Tenderstem continues to grow, with year-on-year volume sales up 17 per cent. Consumers love that there’s no prep time, zero waste and that it’s easy to cook.” The new product will be grown and packed by Flamingo Produce.

Photo Credit: Tenderstem / Coregeo

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HRS highlights importance of efficiency in wastewater treatment

HRS Heat Exchangers, Stand E12, Hall 4, SMAGUA 2019

At SMAGUA 2019 Stand E12, HRS Heat Exchangers will explain why resource and energy efficiency is just as important when dealing with wastewater streams as it is for fresh water availability.

Under Article 9 of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), governments have a responsibility to apply the principle of recovering all costs associated with water services, including environmental and resource costs. These can be wide ranging; from managing abstraction to ensure sufficient flows in water catchments, through to ensuring that any water discharged back into the natural environment does not lead to environmental damage or degradation.

HRS Heat Exchangers produces a full range of heat exchangers and other equipment for the water and environmental sectors. Whether you are looking to recover valuable heat energy from clean water streams, or need a full Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) system for industrial sludge, HRS has the solution.

In particular, the Unicus and DTI Series of scraped surface heat exchangers are ideal for the treatment of high fouling sludge and effluents. Applications include pasteurisation of sludge before discharge or further treatment; evaporation to reduce sludge and waste volumes; or cleaning water so that it can be reused. From standard heat exchangers and treatment systems, high levels of operational thermal efficiency are combined with the best materials and heat regeneration to ensure long lasting and efficient operation.

It is almost nine years since the adoption of the WFD and governments across Europe are now well advanced in implementing it at a national level. As a result, it is more important than ever that everyone involved in water use, management and treatment – from industrial and agricultural users through to municipal water and sewerage organisations – is operating not only in the most economically sustainable way, but also with the lowest possible environmental impact.

Now in its 45th year, SMAGUA, which is one of the leading events for the international water and irrigation industries, takes place 5-7 February 2019 at the Feria de Zaragoza in the Aragon region of Spain.

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UK organics hope for European scale growth

Speaking to the Financial Times, organic farmer Guy Singh-Watson of Riverford says that organic produce has yet to become mainstream and that consumers must get used to paying more.

“I just hate the fact that the food choices we make have become defining of status and class,” he said. Supplying around 50,000 boxes of produce a week, Riverford runs the largest organic box scheme in the UK, with a turnover of almost £60 million last year. Accepting that his organic produce costs about 30 per cent more than conventionally-grown vegetables in the supermarkets, he said that consumers should expect to pay more – as much as double in the case of some organic meat products. “You have got to expect to pay more,” Guy added, “As anyone would, certainly in northern Europe. You are paying for it being grown on a small scale, for the reduced environmental impact: for loads of external costs which are not considered in our simplistic, neoliberal way of looking at the world.”

The Soil Association pointed out that in much of Europe organic food is seen as more mainstream, with many public bodies, such as the city government in Amsterdam and Denmark, where organic produce is supported by the public sector. Business Development Director Clare McDermott added that she hoped that recent moves by the London borough of Tower Hamlets to include 15 per cent organic ingredients in free school meals could lead to a growth in demand.

Photo Caption: Guy Singh-Watson says consumers should be prepared to pay more to eat organic produce

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