Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS) is to invest over £500,000 to extend its partnership with the James Hutton Institute in Scotland that is focused on the development of climate-resilient blackcurrant varieties.
LRS, which uses 90 per cent of the blackcurrants grown in Britain to make Ribena, has supported the globally recognised Institute since 1991, investing over £10 million to support efforts to improve the sustainability and quality of British blackcurrant crops.
Previous research from the Institute has highlighted the threat climate change poses to blackcurrant farming, exploring how the plants need a period of sustained cold weather in the winter, without which they yield less fruit and have a shorter lifespan. As such, the crop is under particular threat given the UK has just experienced its warmest decade on record and scientists are warning that mild winters and hot summers combined with drought conditions will become increasingly common.
The new five year research programme aims to explore how new varieties of blackcurrants could better cope with the climatic changes the UK is facing.
"Development of climate-resilient varieties is high on the James Hutton Institute's agenda and blackcurrants are an important species in understanding the effect of climate change," said Dr Dorota Jarret, a soft fruit breeder at the Institute's commercial subsidiary, James Hutton Limited.
The LRS-backed research will also be on the lookout for berries with high anthocyanin levels, the compound that gives berries their purple colour, and for varieties that are naturally more disease and pest resistant.
"Sourcing local blackcurrants from British growers keeps food miles low and allows us to trace every berry back to its field," said Harriet Prosser, an agronomist at Lucozade Ribena Suntory. "Whenever someone buys a bottle of Ribena, they can be confident they're helping to support biodiversity on our farms and research into the most sustainable ways of farming."
Businessgreen.com reports on Jarret adding that the research partnership should also deliver benefits for farmers by helping them improve the sustainability of their crops and boost yields.