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
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.
The Seasonal Berries
campaign, which was launched twelve years ago by grower cooperative British
Summer Fruits (BSF) to promote year-round berry consumption in the UK,
irrespective of produce origin, has been given a new name, brand identity and
The campaign will now be
called Love Fresh Berries as BSF chairman Nick Marston explained: “We felt that
‘seasonal’ had different permutations and connotations to people. Some people
felt it meant British, others felt it didn’t mean winter berries, and given the
availability of great-eating fruit from many places around the world through
the winter months, we felt it was appropriate to rename the campaign.”
The change of name
coincides with seasonal efforts to increase consumption over the winter months.
Love Fresh Berries spokesperson and dietician Sophie Medlin said, “We often
think of berries as being a summer fruit, but they are available all year round
which means that we can still benefit from the nutrients that they contain.
Berries are a great source of vitamin C which has been shown to shorten the
length of a cold. They also contain important antioxidants and polyphenols
which are excellent for our overall health.”
The new Love Fresh Berries
campaign can be found online at lovefreshberries.co.uk.
Berry Gardens chief executive Jacqui Green has revealed that the soft- and stonefruit cooperative plans to double its turnover to £700 million by the mid-2020s.
Her comments came during a discussion of the business and the overall industry with FJP editor Michael Barker at the FPJ Live event in Coventry last week. The expansion, which comes along with previously announced plans for new and improved production facilities, is part of the company’s PICK initiative, which stands for People; Innovation; Collaboration and Knowledge.
“We’ve got some really ambitious growth plans, and maybe Brexit might have a big influence on it, but we’re looking to double the size of the business by the mid-2020s,” said Jacqui. “We’d [previously]looked at the future and it wasn’t comfortable. A lot of growth has been grower-driven.”
She added that thanks to their healthy eating message, berries had the potential to compete with unhealthy confectionery and snacks and that this was where she saw most future growth in consumption coming from.
A new cherry protection system, which the manufacturers claim can be opened and closed in minutes, is heading to European orchards having been successfully used in Chile.
Wayki Solutions says that a single worker can cover, or remove, on hectare in just 20 minutes, much less time than is required with most other systems, including automated ones. The system uses a normal hand drill to turn the winding mechanism, which in turn opens and closes the covers, which sit above the existing orchard poles.
Cristián Lopez of Wayki Europe said, “Around the world, we are experiencing more and more severe and unexpected weather conditions. This has serious implications for the fruit business as it raises the possibility of events including rain and hail damaging fruit, and high winds damaging growing infrastructure such as poles and cables. Wayki is a very exciting development because it gives growers the control to cover and uncover their orchards and vineyards in a matter of minutes in response to these events.”
As well as cherries, the company believes that the cover system may have applications for crops including blueberries, apples and other soft fruit, and different types of cover can be fitted.
Improving the drainage of container-grown blueberry crops can improve both fruit quality and yield according to the manufacturers of a new hydroponic tool.
The Spacer Hydropot system from Spanish company Hydroponic Systems improves root development, and therefore overall plant growth. It consists of a polypropylene gutter which raises the growing bag off the ground, and a 30×30 cm ‘tray’ which supports the bag. The system ensures air movement and drainage below the roots, while keeping them contained in the growing media.
“It allows blueberry growers to obtain all the advantages of our system: the optimum aeration between the substrate and drains, the prevention of root exit from the substrate and its contact with drainage,” explains Maria Gimenez Lopez from Hydroponic Systems. “Thanks to the easy installation and disinfection and the efficient drainage circulation, the diseases decrease – offering eventually a production that’s both higher in quality and quantity.
“This system evolved from systems having the pot resting directly on the ground to using different supports (such as polystyrene or bricks) up until the current Spacer Hydropot. Bricks or polystyrene do not allow aeration between the substrate and the drains and as a consequence the roots leave the substrate.”
Photo Caption: Diagram showing the support structure, here used in conjunction with a gutter drain.
Plant breeders and scientists from Scotland’s James Hutton Institute at Invergowrie near Dundee are working to develop new varieties of raspberries which have more consistent flavour whatever the weather during the growing season.
However, different consumer perceptions and preferences mean that the task is not always straightforward. Research has shown that men, women and the young and old all have different views on what a raspberry should taste like, and that these differences can affect overall sales of the popular berry.
Project leader Dr Julie Graham told The Scotsman, “If a consumer buys raspberries that they don’t like, some won’t go back and buy the fruit for the rest of the season. Others won’t go back for several weeks. A negative eating experience does have a big impact on purchasing. We also want to understand why the environment has such a big effect on the flavour.
“Typically, the younger you are, the sweeter you want your raspberries. As people get older, they tend to want a balance between sugar and acid. Then there is also a gender divide. Speaking generally, men tend to like a bit of balance and then women like it sweeter. However, that again is affected by age profile. It is really quite interesting what people want in flavour.”
The research facility is now working with New Zealand’s Delytics Ltd in order to provide better guidance and exactly when to harvest the fruit to growers.
Photo Caption: Different consumers have different ideas of what a raspberry should taste like
Kent-based fruit supplier Peaty Mills plc is working with frozen fruit specialist Nice Fruit, which last year transferred its base of operations from Catalonia to Andorra, to introduce a new freezing method which the companies say preserves peak ripeness.
The company, which currently specialises in canned and prepared fruit and vegetables, says that the colour, texture, flavour, aroma and nutrients of the fruit are kept fully preserved for up to three years. The fruit can be defrosted in one hour with no loss of quality and then has a 48-hour shelf life.
Fruit available currently in the range includes pineapple, melon, mango, and others, as well as snack-ready packs, individual portion packs, multi-portion bags and now individual pineapple spears in foil packs to be eaten like ice lollies. The company says that single serving bags are proving very popular in fast food outlets like coffee shops.
Photo Caption: Peaty Mills plc says its new freezing method can keep fruit in excellent condition for up to three years.
A robotics development company which started life as a spin-out of the University of Plymouth is to trial a revolutionary raspberry picking robot with the Hall Hunter Partnership.
Fieldwork Robotics is now part-owned by AIM-listed Frontier IP group PLC, which saw its shares rise 5.7 per cent on the news that they would be working with Hall Hunter Partnership which grows 14,000 tonnes of soft fruit, including raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries for customers including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Tesco.
“Hall Hunter are the UK’s largest grower of raspberries…so they’re clearly a large player in the sector,” said Neil Crabb, chief executive of Frontier IP. He pointed out that raspberries are one of the most fragile types of soft fruit, so successful field tests would lead the way to using the robot in other fruit and vegetable crops including blueberries and strawberries.
The technology was developed by Dr Martin Stoelen of the University of Plymouth, who is now working on a tomato harvesting project in China. He said, “The collaboration agreement we’ve signed with Hall Hunter is a big step forward for Fieldwork and the team at the University of Plymouth. I’m looking forward to seeing our robots operating in the field.” The University has also received funding from Agri-tech Cornwall to develop robotics technologies for use in cauliflowers and other vegetables.
Hall Hunter Partnership chief operating officer David Green said: “HHP has always led the soft fruit industry in pushing forward productivity and quality standards on our Farms and Nurseries. This partnership with Fieldwork Robotics is an exciting new development to pioneer the harvesting of raspberries robotically at a commercial scale. We are looking forward to our first human-free hectare to be picked together.”
Dutch fruit producer Flevo Berry has released a new mid-season fruiting strawberry that the company says has good tolerance to Phytopthora.
Sonsation is a short day variety, with berries with orange-red, conical berries which are said to resemble Sonata, but with better firmness. According to the company, ‘Sonsation is an easy growing variety producing a compact plant with lovely upturned leafs. Flower trusses are at leaf length and still well protected against spring frost. Flowers have excellent pollen quality ensuring a very well fruit set and fruits are well displayed and very easy to pick.’
Steven Oosterloo, commercial director of Flevo Berry said: “Sonsation fits into our philosophy. In developing new varieties we always look ahead. It can be done differently and it really must be done differently, so for us, flavor and sustainability are at the top of the list. It is a part of the way we think. You can use Sonsation in a variety of growing systems. From normal conditions and cooled environments to cultivation on racks and on substrate in greenhouses. The variety is easy to grow and juicy, making it appropriate for both direct sale and retail.”
Berry Gardens is working with the University of Lincoln and Norway’s Saga Robotics to trial the use of the Thorvald agricultural robot in soft fruit fields and see if it can increase harvest efficiency.
The ‘trailblazing’ project, known as RAS-Berry, has attracted funding from Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The main use of the robots in the trail is to transport boxes of harvested fruit from the picking- to the collection-point, relieving workers to concentrate on the more difficult task of picking and improving overall harvest efficiency.
Ursula Lidbetter MBE, Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, commented, “Greater Lincolnshire is a major food-producing area, and the agri-food industry is one of our six priority sectors. It’s fantastic to see a Lincolnshire-based project leading the way in AI. This will really put Lincolnshire on the map for developing technologies that can help and support the county’s food producers to grow and innovate.”