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Horticulture Newsletter - November 2010

tomato slice

1 Nov 2010

As Europe and America limp slowly out of recession, many eastern countries continue to surge ahead. Several reports have questioned their ability to feed themselves [1], [2]. However, in an article below abridged from an original in the FPJ Journal, Rebecca Lewis of Promar International sounds a warning and describes the impact their horticultural industries could have on the UK fresh produce industry.

Editor

When East Meets West: growing the Asian link

In the next ten years, Asia's population will increase by more than 10 percent - an extra 430 million people - which represents well over half of the world's additional population in the period.

The ascent from poverty of large proportions of the population of India and China is well documented, as is the challenge of how these increasingly affluent countries will be fed. Agricultural production in China and India receives substantial investment and in many cases, is rising at an incredible rate. It is by no means focused only on the domestic market. Combined with their phenomenal geographic size, production volumes dwarf most other leading agricultural producing countries. Horticulture is no exception.

applesFor instance, China's apple crop, at 30 million tonnes, is almost seven times larger than its nearest rival, the US. Exports, at 1.2mt, have soared by almost 400% in the last 10 years and still account for less than 5% of the crop.

In India, the mango and grape industries, among others, are specifically targeted by the government for export development. Other products such as soft fruit and cut flowers follow behind.

Elsewhere in Asia, Thailand has already established itself as a major player in processed horticultural produce, such as canned pineapples and more niche products like individual quick-frozen products, as well as exotic items including baby corn, speciality Asian vegetables and asparagus.

Shifting social trends are changing the face of consumption, the Asian consumer and in time, the development of the supply chain. One of the key features is the rise of modern forms of retailing. In India, this only accounts for around 5% of the market at the moment, but in China it is already around 25% and growing fast. The so-called Pac Rim markets, such as Korea and Taiwan, are also seeing the rapid growth of more modern forms of retailing.

Tesco ChinaThere may be niche opportunities for European produce in Asia, but overall the balance of trade is likely to be in the other direction. That is not to say there are no opportunities for the UK. Far from it, in fact UK retailers, for example, led by Tesco, are already eyeing the future potential of these markets.

As both export and organised modern urban retail markets develop, there will also be an increased need for high-class traceability, accreditation and food safety systems, supply chain logistics, environmental technologies, corporate social responsibility strategies, new product development, innovation and processing technology.

This is where the UK is inherently strong. A foreign education is still highly valued and many UK agri-food oriented universities and colleges are already actively marketing and recruiting in Asia, particularly in China, to help provide the skills and knowledge these food industries of the future will require.

Asian agri food businesses will not just cause a ripple in Western markets in the next 10 years - it could be more like a tidal wave. The UK produce sector needs to ensure it can ride with the wave, not get caught in its wake and only wishing it had seen it coming. It's already on the way.

This requires vision and planning because once the wave arrives, it could already be too late. How we respond to all of this will be critical. A positive response could see new investment in production and distribution, as well as the opportunity for the UK to develop knowledge-based services back into Asian markets.

A negative or closed response might well see Asia look elsewhere in the EU or in the US, Latin America or Australasia and leave the UK out in the cold. A case of catching Asian flu - or not - as the case might be?

Rebecca Lewis
Promar International

The above article is an abridged version of Rebecca's full article which appeared in FPJ, 20 August 2010, pages 18-20 and we are grateful to both for permission to reproduce the version above.

Medicinal Plant of the Month

Eucharis amazonica , Galanthus peshmenii and Galanthus reginae-olgae, Amaryllidaceae

eucharis spThe genus Eucharis is made up of 17 species and two naturally occurring hybrids. The name means true (eu) attraction (charis) and refers to the beautiful flowers. Eucharis amazonica, commonly known as the Amazon lily, has been somewhat confused in cultivation with Eucharis grandiflora. The specimen shown in the photos below awaits taxonomic verification by the consultant taxonomist employed by the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. We currently have it labelled as Eucharis amazonica. Whether the correct name be E. amazonica or E. grandiflora the flowers have a beautiful delicate scent and look stunning on the shady floor of the tropical glasshouse.

This bulbous perennial with evergreen leaves requires moist fertile soil in partial shade with a minimum temperature of 10°C to grow well. It flowers in autumn through winter and definitely brightens up the glasshouses on a gloomy day. The Amaryllis family to which this genus belongs is well known for the alkaloids (nitrogen containing naturally occurring compounds biosynthesised from amino acids) it contains. The most medicinally important alkaloid found in Amaryllidaceae plant is galanthamine. This molecule was first isolated in 1952 after being extracted from Galanthus woronowii, a snowdrop species native to Turkey, Russia and Georgia.

Since then many different Amaryllidaceae genera have been found to contain this substance. In Bulgaria, Leucojum aestivum is grown for the commercial extraction of galanthamine, in China the red spider lily, Lycoris radiata is grown for this purpose whilst in the UK there are many acres devoted to cultivation of Narcissus ‘Carlton' to provide the raw material.

Galanthamine has now been used internally for approximately 40 years for the reversal of neuromuscular blockade and for the treatment of neurological conditions such as post-polio paralysis and myasthenia gravis. It was not until the 1990s, however, that galanthamine was licensed as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Until last month, galanthamine was only recommended by The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease thus limiting the number of patients who could like benefit from this drug. However, in early October 2010, NICE updated its recommendations to include patients with mild Alzheimer's disease. Production will need to be increased and although some of the need is met by total chemical synthesis, much of the drug is still extracted directly from plants. One company, Alzeim, are planting a further 60 acres (24ha) in the Black Mountains near Talgarth, and will open a production line at new offices in Brecon before the end of October.

galanthus spAlso in the Amaryllidaceae and already mentioned as the first source of galanthamine are snowdrops. Whilst usually associated with late winter and early spring, the first snowdrops of the season are already blooming. There are a handful of species of autumn flowering snowdrops including Galanthus peshmenii and Galanthus reginae-olgae. It comes as quite a shock to see the dainty flowers on the rock garden or in the alpine house in October - before we've even had the first frost of the season! Still, it's a good warm-up for the snowdrop mania that will arrive in February.

Alison Foster
University of Oxford Botanic Garden

Horticulture Industry News

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New products
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Quotes of the Month

'Science is wonderfully equipped to answer the question 'How?' but it gets terribly confused when you ask the question 'Why?' '

Erwin Chargaff - an Austrian biochemist who discovered two rules that helped lead to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA

eEvents Calendar

SCI Horticulture Group events are listed here

Other Events of Interest

Crop World
1 - 3 Nov 2010, United Business Media and British Crop Protection Council
ExCel, London UK

The Artemisinin Supply for Malaria Control
1 Nov 2010, Lecture by Professor Diane Bowles
Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford, UK

Planning to Achieve/More from Less
2 Nov 2010, British Institute of Agricultural Consultants
Kenilworth, UK

Stepping up to the plate
2 Nov 2010, EFFP
London, UK

Predicting and Controlling the Shelf-Life of Foods
3 - 4 Nov 2010, Food Chain CIC
Leatherhead, Surrey, UK

Know Your Plants - Developing skills for better science, horticulture and communication
3 - 5 Nov 2010, Botanic Gardens Education Network
Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, UK

The Roots of a Cure
8 Nov 2010, Lecture by Professor Monique Simmonds
Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford, UK

Biodiversity in the 21st century: Are we missing the target?
9 Nov 2010, Society of Biology
London, UK

Advances in Biological Control
17 Nov 2010, Association of Applied Biologists
Marston, Lincs, UK

Towards 2013. An agriculture fit for purpose
17 - 18 Nov 2010, British Institute of Agricultural Consultants
Wellesbourne, Warwick, UK

Bananas, Genetics and Appropriate Biotechnology
18 Nov 2010, Society of Biology
Nottingham, UK

Tropical Horticulture
22 - 26 Nov 2010, International Society for Horticultural Science
Kingston, Jamaica

Oatridge Conference and Exhibition
25 Nov 2010, Scotgrow
Ecclesmachan, Nr Edinburgh, UK

Innovative ideas in pest and weed control in field vegetables
25 Nov 2010, Association of Applied Biologists
Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, UK

What makes an alien invasive?
7 - 8 Nov 2010, Association of Applied Biologists
Edinburgh, UK

Ideotypes - is the understanding of physiology relevant to the future of plant breeding?
7 Dec 2010, Association of Applied Biologists
Reading, UK

Water and nitrogen use efficiency in plants and crops
15 -16 Dec 2010, Association of Applied Biologists
Grantham,UK

Stress Responses - molecules, organisms, environments
4 - 7 Jan 2011, British Ecological Society, Society for Experimental Biology, Biochemical Society
London, UK

Adapting Conservation to a Changing Climate
11 - 12 Jan 2011, British Ecological Society and Natural England
London, UK

IPM Essen
21 - 25 Jan 2011, Messe Essen
Essen, Germany

Interaction of Pesticide Application and Formulation on Residues in Fruit and Vegetables
9 Feb 2011, Association of Applied Biologists
Jealotts Hill, UK

Horticulture of Opium Poppy
7 - 11 Feb 2011, International Society for Horticultural Science
Lucknow, India

Crop Protection in Southern Britain
23 Feb 2011, Association of Applied Biologists
Impington, Cambridge, UK

Sustainable Vegetable Production in South East Asia
14 - 17 Mar 2011, International Society for Horticultural Science
Salatiga, Indonesia

Wild Relatives of Subtropical and Temperate Fruit and Nut Crops
19 - 23 Mar 2011, International Society for Horticultural Science
Davis, CA, USA

Forests and Global Change
28 - 30 Mar 2011, British Ecological Society
Cambridge, UK

If you would like to advertise a forthcoming event please contact communications@soci.org

Horticulture Group Contact Details

For submitting ideas or to volunteer to be part of a committee or a group, please contact:

Acting Chairman - Peter Grimbly
Meetings Secretary - Marion Stainton
Minutes Secretary - Margaret Waddy
Newsletter Co-ordinator - Sue Grimbly, E: scihortigroup@btinternet.com
SCI contact - communications@soci.org T: +44(0)20 7598 1500


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