Tag Archives: greenhouse crops

First tomato crop at Sterling Suffolk to be planted in December

Sterling Suffolk, the new tomato nursery being built at Great Blakenham in Suffolk, says that it is on track to plant the first crops this winter with a view to harvesting the first on-the-vine tomatoes from mid-February 2019.

The first 5.6 ha phase of what is eventually intended to be an 17 ha site, including glasshouses, packing facilities and offices, is now well under construction and according to the company the 8.3 m tall structure will be ‘the most environmentally efficient glasshouse in the UK.’

Originally the nursery planned to use surplus heat from a new waste disposal incinerator being built nearby, but in March 2016 it said that government changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive meant that this option could not be investigated immediately.

Sterling Suffolk Ltd Director Cliff Matthews told the Ipswich Star: ““This is agriculture on an industrial scale. There is an art and science to growing tomatoes and we have a very good expert involved, Richard Lewis, one of the best in the UK. We aim to produce 50,000 vines per week. It is more about the taste than the quantity. These will be top of the range quality.”

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The post First tomato crop at Sterling Suffolk to be planted in December appeared first on Hort News on 18 July 2018.

Westland reveals automated lettuce greenhouse

Evesham-based Westland Nurseries, the UK’s largest grower of micro leaves and specialty edibles, has revealed details of its latest 1.4 ha fully automated lettuce greenhouse which has been built by Dutch company Certhon.

In an online video, Peter Taylor, General Manager of Westland Nurseries, explained, “Two years ago we decided to grow into some new markets for us of growing lettuce. The aim of the lettuce that we grow is to sell it into the premium markets. Obviously growing in a hydroponic and controlled environment we are looking for a much cleaner, more controlled, year-round grown lettuce.” He added that the quality of the product is achieved by various details, including, “The multi-gutter system for the lettuce, the glasshouses, and the lighting we use to deliver those products.”

The new greenhouse includes is 1.4 hectares, and includes insulated sandwich panels on the lower levels, with ultra-low iron glass for the roof and sides. It uses a mobile gutter system, together with an energy screen and hybrid SON-T and LED lighting system. It also makes the most of a new CHP system which was installed to feed the entire Westland site.

Photo Credit: YouTube / Certhon

The post Westland reveals automated lettuce greenhouse appeared first on Hort News on 12 July 2018.

Panasonic unveils tomato picking robot

Last month at Tokyo’s International Robot Exhibition, electronics giant Panasonic showcased an agricultural robot which the company claim can perform complex repetitive tasks, such as harvesting tomatoes.

The new harvesting robot, which the company stresses is still very much under development, was one of a number of robotic devices Panasonic showcased at the event. The machine runs on a rail and identifies the ripe fruit before picking them gently using a ‘special end effector’ which cuts can catches the fruit to prevent damage.

‘With newly developed sensors and image processing technology, Panasonic is developing harvest robots that can accurately assess colour, shape, and location,” the company said in a statement. ‘This robot can even pick fruits such as tomatoes that were thought difficult to harvest with machinery without leaving a single scratch. And by connecting to the network, it can automatically move around the ridges and transport the tomatoes to baskets or even change baskets, so it can autonomously undertake every step of the harvesting process.’

The machine has a claimed work rate of 10 fruits per minute, but unlike human pickers, it can operate without breaks for up to 24 hours a day.

Photo Caption: Panasonic has been working on its tomato picking robot for several years.

Photo Credit: YouTube

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Thanet Earth completes sixth greenhouse

Kent-based Thanet Earth has competed construction of the sixth greenhouse on its site near Birchington. The new 7ha of glass means that the company will grow nearly a quarter of all the tomatoes grown in the UK, including its exclusive Piccolo variety.

The new block includes high pressure sodium grow lights and a combined heat and power unit. The company claims that in winter, the total of 31 ha of lit UK tomatoes will represent 75 per cent of UK lit production.

Thanet Earth managing director Des Kingsley said, “There’s an enormous uncertainty around the future for imported trade at the moment, and it’s widely acknowledged that the UK has to improve its self-sufficiency in food production. We’re working as hard as we can to add more top-quality home-grown volumes to the market but there’s still a huge gap between the demand for British tomatoes all year round and the available supply volumes.”

The company has also installed sodium grow lights in greenhouse that it is now switching to cucumber production for next year, saying it will be the UK’s first high-wire, light assisted cucumber crop. Overall Thanet Earth has planning permission to construct up to seven greenhouses as part of an estimated £135 million joint-venture with several partners including specialist growers.

Photo Caption: The new greenhouse features high pressure sodium grow lights.

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Are dogs the future of pest detection?

Large Canadian greenhouse grower NatureFresh™ Farms has adopted a novel approach to pest management: using a Belgian Shepherd dog named Chili to identify the first signs of infestation.

The move came following an outbreak of Pepper Weevil (Anthonomus eugenii) in the autumn of 2016. Due to the nature of the pest, it cannot be spotted by humans and, once an outbreak is established, no available biological control methods are capable of controlling the pest.

Cam Lyons, Research and Development and IPM Technician comments, “Dogs are a very intelligent animal. Many worker dogs are trained to recognize and discover scents associated with drugs or bombs, so it seemed possible to train a dog to recognize pepper weevil.”

After research, the company adopted 15-month old Chili who underwent 8 weeks of training before being certified by The American Working Dog Association. This certification allows Chili to work in the farm without any food safety concerns. When Chili detects the scent of Pepper Weevil she will sit and stare at the location of the pest.

Peter Quiring, NatureFresh™ Farms Owner and CEO, added, “In order to continue to grow it is essential to develop new strategies and look beyond conventional methods. We encourage our team to think outside the box and test any ideas they may have; no idea is considered too crazy.”

Photo Caption: Cam Lyons, IPM scout and dog handler Tina Heide, and Chili.

Photo Credit: NatureFresh Farms

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UK grower breeds world’s hottest chilli

A grower from Newark has unveiled what has been dubbed, ‘the world’s hottest chilli’ at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The variety called the Dragon’s Breath chilli measures 2.4 million Scovilles (SCU) on the Scoville heat scale, some 200,000 SCU hotter than the current record holder.

The Dragon’s Breath is the culmination of a joint project between Tom Smith Plants, NPK Technology and Newark-based chilli grower, ChilliBobs. The Dragon’s Breath was revealed to the world on the Tom Smith Plants stand at the Chelsea Flower Show and Guinness World Records have already been approached to officially verify it as the world’s hottest chilli.

As the creator, owner and commercial grower of the Dragon’s Breath chilli, father and son Bob and Neal Price, have grown and harvested it from seed. Bob said, “We make it a rule to taste every new type of chilli that we grow. As soon as we tried Dragon’s Breath we knew it was hot!”

At 2.4m Scovilles, the chilli is over 500 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The Scoville scale, which is used to measure the spicy heat of chillies, was developed in 1912 by an American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.

An edible version of the new chilli will be available to buy from ChilliBobs, and chilli fans will be able to taste it at the ChilliBobs East Midlands’ Chilli Festival, in July at the ChilliBobs farm in Rolleston, near Newark.

Photo Caption: Dragon’s Breath summer chilli pods.

Photo Credit: ChilliBobs Ltd

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Waitrose launches UK salad bag

A new state-of-the-art 1.5 hectare greenhouse complex in Evesham is helping retailer Waitrose to stock British salad leaves all year round.

The new glass, which has been developed by Wingland Foods uses efficient LED lighting, heating and watering, reducing the environmental impact.  It takes 35-40 days to grow the salad in these conditions compared to up to 16 weeks in the field so the yield is almost three times higher over the course of a 12 month period.

The first salad to be produced is Waitrose’s British Chard & Salad Leaves bag, making the supermarket the first supermarket of the year to introduce a UK grown salad bag, available three months earlier than the usual May-October season.

Nicola Waller, Waitrose Head of Fresh Produce, said, “This launch is a result of our long term planning and it’s great to see the first of our British salad bags hitting the shelves so early in the season. Developing this innovative new way of growing salad leaves means that we can source from the UK all year round, going even further in our commitment to British farming.”

The salads are also grown to LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) Marque Standards.

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Tomatoes with virus attract bees

Plant scientists at the University of Cambridge have found that the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) alters gene expression in the tomato plants it infects, causing changes to the scent emitted by the plants. Bees can smell these subtle changes, and glasshouse experiments have shown that bumblebees prefer infected plants over healthy ones.

Scientists say that by indirectly manipulating bee behaviour to improve pollination of infected plants by changing their scent, the virus is effectively paying its host back. This may also benefit the virus: helping to spread the pollen of plants susceptible to infection and, in doing so, inhibiting the chance of virus-resistant plant strains emerging.

CMV is transmitted by aphids – bees don’t carry the virus. It’s one of the most prevalent pathogens affecting tomato plants, resulting in small plants with poor-tasting fruits that can cause serious losses to cultivated crops. As well as being one of the most damaging viruses for horticultural crops, CMV it also persists in wild plant populations, and the new findings may explain why.

“Bees provide a vital pollination service in the production of three-quarters of the world’s food crops. With their numbers in rapid decline, scientists have been searching for ways to harness pollinator power to boost agricultural yields,” said study principal investigator Dr John Carr, Head of Cambridge’s Virology and Molecular Plant Pathology group. “Better understanding the natural chemicals that attract bees could provide ways of enhancing pollination, and attracting bees to good sources of pollen and nectar – which they need for survival.”

Photo Credit: University of Cambridge / Alex M Murphy, Sanjie Jiang and John P Carr

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Tomatoes resist a parasitic vine by detecting its peptide

Tomato plants deter attacks from a parasitic plant that’s known to ravage crops by detecting one of its peptides, a new study has revealed.

Worldwide, parasitic plants cost billions of dollars in crop losses, but a better understanding of how some plants fend off invaders could help efforts to mitigate these losses. Cuscuta reflexa is a parasitic, leafless vine that infects the stems of most dicotyledonous plants. One notable exception is Solanum lycopersicum, a species of tomato.

Plants are sometimes able to detect disease-causing microbes by the distinct peptides that these invading plants release, which prompts the host plant to secrete the stress-related hormone ethylene. The research team lead by Volker Hegenauer suspected that S. lycopersicum may take a similar strategy when facing the plant parasite C. reflexa, which they confirmed. By analyzing natural variation the researchers identified the receptor behind this sensitivity, which they named Cuscuta receptor 1 (CuRe1).

When the team induced expression of the corresponding gene in the leaves of two other plant species (one closely related to S. lycopersicum and the other more distantly related), both plants reacted to presence of the C. reflexa peptide with increased production of ethylene, and exhibited increased resistance to C. reflexa infestation.

Photo Caption: Flower of the dicotyledonous plant parasite Cuscuta reflexa.

Photo Credit: Dr. Eric Melzer

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Thanet Earth criticised for light pollution

In a new series of satellite maps, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), have criticised protected vegetable grower Thanet Earth as the second worst light polluter in the country, second only to Tata Steel in Rotherham.

CPRE said in a statement, “Thanet Earth pledged to improve its greenhouse blinds in 2013, yet the light emitted is still severe. Its maximum brightness value is 84.98 nanowatts/cm2*sr, brighter than anywhere else in the South East, including London.”

However, the company defended its use of lighting and published a detailed explanation of the screens it uses on its website. “To achieve an economically-sustainable yield in the winter months then we have to supplement the natural light that the plants receive. Both of the tomato glasshouses at Thanet Earth are equipped with growlights which provide the plants with a light intensity that replicates the light levels of a typical spring day,” it explained. “In total, our two operational lit greenhouses have some 20,000 lights at work. Each is around 1000W. These lights are usually switched on by around midnight, and will stay on until the afternoon.”

Thanet Earth also pointed out that growlights are not used between April and September, depending on light levels, and that there are few dwellings in the immediate vicinity of the site. “By leaving the lights off until 11pm at the earliest, we aim to minimise any impact of the lights on our neighbours.”

Photo Caption: The growlights at Thanet Earth stay on until the afternoon

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