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amid warnings of drought in England and Wales
UK: Lord Taylor pays visit to East Malling ResearchThe scientific work undertaken by scientists at East Malling Research (EMR) and the work of East Malling Trust, as the UK’s largest independent funder of horticultural research, have been given a ministerial vote of confidence and thanks during a visit.
The Rt Hon. the Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), visited EMR on Thursday, February 16. His visit coincided with news that England and Wales could be heading for one of the driest winters on record with the average winter rainfall being lower than the months preceding the severe 1976 drought.
Lord Taylor toured the Kent-based research centre to review a series of projects delivering strategic irrigation science to support food production and reduce water consumption in horticulture. He was particularly interested in the development of new varieties of strawberries, better able to cope with drought conditions through understanding their genome, as well as new techniques for reducing water consumption while maintaining yields, quality and shelf life.
Professor Peter Gregory, Chief Executive of East Malling Research, outlined the vision for EMR to be the UK’s pre-eminent research institute for strategic and applied research, development and innovation in horticulture.
Lord Taylor’s tour included the Unigro GroDome, the research centre’s secure containment facility; the glasshouses; and the post-harvest Produce Quality Centre, operated in partnership with the University of Greenwich.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach (third from left) with senior representatives from East Malling Research and East Malling Trust.
During his visit, Lord Taylor said: ““East Malling Research has been at the forefront of many scientific advances in horticulture which have made an important contribution to the production of fruit and vegetables in the UK. They have coupled this with working closely with growers to make sure their research is translated on-farm.
“We need to produce more food to feed a growing global population. Scientific research to improve food production, whilst protecting the environment, is crucial to meeting that challenge.”
Professor Gregory said: “The issue of water consumption by horticulture and agriculture will inevitably rise up the political agenda over the coming months. As a result it was very timely that we had the opportunity to brief Lord Taylor on our work and its implications for the UK, as well as overseas producers.”
“East Malling is well-placed to work with growers and the wider fresh produce industry to adapt to climate change, and to use resources such as water more efficiently through our research expertise in genetics and crop improvement, resource efficiency, and pest and pathogen management. Our work in the area of post-harvest storage is also fundamental to reducing the country’s levels of food waste throughout the food chain.”
During the visit the issue of funding UK horticultural research was mentioned. Recognising that it would be impossible to return to the days when EMR was home to 400 scientists, but that there still remained a vital need for both strategic and applied research, Will Sibley, Chairman of East Malling Trust, said: “The work of EMR and others is essential to the well-being of the industry and country. The Trust’s financial support for EMR has ensured the continuation of vital research. However, what we need to do now is secure the necessary long-term funding from the government, its agencies, and the commercial industries that benefit from our work, to ensure we not only sustain our research capabilities, but actually grow it.”
During the visit Lord Selborne, a trustee of East Malling Trust, put the case for an increased support for fruit growing demonstration projects to show the industry how to improve productivity of current and novel crops. He said: “The country’s growers need demonstration projects, such as the Concept Conference Pear Orchard here at EMR to show deliverability and improve commercial confidence.”
For more information:
Tel: +44 (0)1892 513033
Mob: +44 (0)7990 574680
Publication date: 2/21/2012
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