Extending the UK asparagus season

A new industry-funded joint project aims to increase the UK asparagus season.

Funded by Innovate UK, BBSRC and the asparagus industry, the £600,000 initiative is being led by Cranfield University, with partners Cobrey Farms and ICA (International Controlled Atmosphere).

“The project is about extending the storage life of UK asparagus by up to six weeks with innovative dynamically controlled atmosphere technology usually applied to apples,” explained Professor Leon Terry, who heads Cranfield University’s Soil and Agrifood Institute, adding that his 20-strong postharvest team is one of the largest in the EU. “We are basically transferring that technology to asparagus and using some of the knowledge acquired to extend the UK season.”

The project will investigate the feasibility of using ICA’s SafePod system, currently being trialled in the apple industry, on asparagus. “We’re investigating an idea and that doesn’t mean it’ll work, but if it does it will be fantastic – it will be a huge step forward,” said John Chinn of Cobrey farms which currently produces almost a third of the UK asparagus crop. “We know it works with apples and blueberries, but they have a low respiration rate in comparison with asparagus.”

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