Horticulture Group Newsletter June 2016

6 Jun 2016

Congratulations to the two winners of this year's David Miller Bursary Award. They are;

Catherine Cutler from Exeter University who plans to travel to Australia to learn practical horticultural skills and gain plant knowledge, in order to successfully grow Mediterranean climate Australian flora under protection in the UK.

Carrie Anne Twitchen from Reading University who plans to travel to Quebec City in Canada to present findings from her research project at the 8th International Strawberry Symposium in August.

Both winners will be attending our Annual General Meeting on 16 September to give presentations on their travel.

The 13 June sees the first of four events on Medicinal Plants being held at the Royal College of Physicians. An introduction will be given by Dr Jeffrey Aronson, honorary consultant physician and honorary clinical pharmacologist, Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford follwed by a talk on Hallucinogenic plants, The Devil's Foot: a study in self-experimentation? by Professor Rod Flower FRS, professor of biochemical pharmacology, William Harvey Research Institute, University of London. Details

On 16 June we will be visiting Kinver Court and Wraxall Wines with the Professioanl Horticulture Group South West.

Finally on 29 June we will be touring the Chelsea Physic Garden in London.

Peter Grimbly


Festival of Plants, Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Plant of the Month
News from our Associates
Horticulture Industry News
Events Calendar
Horticulture Group contact details
Related Links

Festival of Plants, Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CUBG), 14 May 2016

CUBGThis is an event that grows and grows. It is linked with other similar events worldwide, to encourage everyone, and especially the up and coming generation, to engage with plants.

CUBG lays on a vast range of attractions (even morris dancing pictured right). Specialist plant nurseries are set up under the cedars on the main approach to the garden. Head past the glasshouses, and enter the marquee. Think you know about the genome size of animals, versus plants? Think again (and I did). You and I may beat the gorilla, but the elephant wins for mammals. And then, the champion … wheat! Thanks to the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB)for putting me right.

We’re concerned about plant pigments. There was a chance to check out anthocyanins and betalains - which group will stain your child’s T shirt more indelibly? And, more important, how will they affect your wellbeing?

This year, there was a chance to visit the Sainsbury Laboratories, Cambridge University (SLCU), funded by Lord Sainsbury, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and the Gatsby Foundation. The facility was awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2012. Much of the work carried out is ‘blue skies’, on the plant world’s equivalent of the guinea pig, Arabidopsis thaliana. The plants used are genetically modified, so all possible precautions are taken to prevent ‘escape’; and equal means are employed to stop pest and disease introductions.

So, after our guide had shown us how to measure the day’s outdoor climatic conditions (temperature; light levels; relative humidity) we walked over a sticky mat, donned lab coats and were shown how swiftly outdoor conditions may be replicated in an individual growth chamber (GC pictured centre) - a mere 20 minutes. Meanwhile, we saw plants being manipulated to grow either vegetatively, in short days; or to initiate flowers,in long days. Other plants on trial are barley, and a relative of shepherd’s purse (Capsella sp).

Lighting in each GC is provided mainly by LED white light. A light sensor keeps the output constant. Airflow is constant and uniform, so there are no edge effects to the plants in trays.

We also visited the glasshouses (GHs) on the floor above. Because of planning regulations, these are only 3m high - limiting, if you’re working with tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum). They are shared with the Cambridge University (CU) Botanic Garden and Department of Plant Sciences. In terms of energy consumption, these are the most expensive facilities in CU. The energy bills are astronomical.

We saw A. thaliana being grown on in trays; and how pests may be controlled biologically, rather than with insecticides.. The SL section GHs is surrounded by yellow sticky tape, to trap one of the two main pests: sciarid flies, alias fungus gnats ( ). This may be controlled by the nematode Steinernema feltiae. The second insidious pest is western flower thrips, Frankliniella, the bane of flower growers worldwide. Its biological control is Orius laevigatus, a predatory bug. Control does not come cheap; fortunately O laevigatus may be sustained on snapdragon (Anthirhinum majus pictured bottom) flowers. Interestingly, thrips find blue more attractive than yellow, so dual traps are dispersed throughout the GH.

Nothing stands still at the Botanic Garden. The present site was set up in the mid 19th century by John Henslow, mentor to Charles Darwin. Henslow laid out the Systematic Beds, to display plant families according to the theories of Linnaeus and De Candolle, for botany students to understand plant relationships. With the advent of DNA analysis, some of these relationships have been revised. Now the Garden has received a £10M grant to update the beds … but they’re a Heritage Site. The jury’s still out about whether to scrap the present display, beautifully set within hawthorn hedges? Or to set out a different area, while retaining the original? Maybe we’ll find out next year ….

cyanidin-3-glucoside and cnicin

Pictures by Margaret Waddy

Margaret Waddy


Plant of the Month

Centaurea montana, perennial cornflower, Asteraceae

centaureaGlowing luminously in many a border at this time of year is the perennial cornflower (picture top). It is just one of the 500 species of Centaurea, which originate mainly from the Mediterranean and near East, Northern Eurasia and tropical Africa. There are also two species native to North America and a single species from Australia.

The plants in the genus are mainly herbaceous but some are subshrubs.

As with all plants in the daisy family – the inflorescences are made up of many smaller individual flowers. For Centaurea, the central flowers are tubular and bisexual and there is a ring of outer flowers (or florets) which have enlarged ray-like leaves and are sterile (picture upper middle).

There are many variants on the straight species, providing a range of colour options. ‘Joyce’ has pink ray florets surrounding the purple disc florets (picture lower middle), and ‘Alba’ of course having white ray florets.

Perennial cornflower seems a boring sort of a common name compared to others for members of genus – bachelor’s buttons, sweet sultan, and dusty miller being just some of those. Knapweed, a commonly seen “weed” in the fields of the countryside is also in this genus (Centaurea scabiosa).

Two other members of this genus are perhaps more known for their uses in traditional herbal medicines rather than their use in ornamental horticulture. The first, Centaurea benedicta - the blessed thistle or holy thistle – is an annual herb (picture bottom). Extracts of the whole herb are still used today in herbal medicine as an appetite stimulant and to treat dyspepsia. It is grown commercially in eastern and southern Europe for this purpose. This plant has also been taken to treat internal cancers, diabetes, gout and rheumatism and applied topically for wounds and ulcers. It contains the glycoside cnicin but also smaller quantities of artemisiifolin and solonitenolide.

The second, is the familiar annual cornflower - Centaurea cyanus – a slightly different shade of blue to the perennial cornflower, and not nearly so luminous. This weed of the cornfields is sadly not nearly as common as it once was (as with many other cornfield weeds) due to the changes in farming practice. This plant has been used as a general tonic, stomachic and diuretic but is perhaps today most commonly used as a colouring ingredient in herbal teas and also as a lotion to soothe irritation of the eyes. As with the blessed thistle, this plant contain cnicin, but it is an anthocyanin called cyanidin which is the pigment responsible for the blue colouration.

Pictures by Alison Foster


Alison Foster
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew


News from our Associates

CHACommercial Horticultural Association
This October (26 - 27) CHA are launching GrowQuip, a major new international conference and exhibition for the commercial horticultural industry. To be held at the Stratford Manor Hotel, Stratford on Avon, GrowQuip will feature a one day conference followed by a trade exhibiton. On 27 October the trade exhibition will be open to all growers free of charge. For details of the conference, exhibitor packages and sponsorship opportunities visit the CHA website.

Society of BiologyRoyal Society of Biology
The Royal Society of Biology submitted evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into Science communication. In summary they suggest;

Public support for science is a vital component of an environment in which high quality research and innovation can thrive to deliver real public benefit.

Recognition and understanding of public attitudes among scientists is critical and increasingly examined.

Engagement and monitoring are necessary for both of these first two issues and Government support is vital.

Continually bringing science to new audiences is challenging but important; mainstream media and broadcasters need to be significant allies in this.

As with all public engagement activity, good expert involvement is essential and public employers should recognise and reward excellence, to encourage and ensure participation.

Quality in communicating science should be valued alongside quality in research. Encouraging study and career engagement in STEM is essential for the future of UK science; the importance of the skills pipeline cannot be underestimated.

Government support for engagement and development of good consultation practice is key to ensuring the right advice informs policymaking. Recent updates to the Consultation Principles may have brought some improvement but it is still too early to assess real impact.

The full report can be read here.


Horticulture Industry News

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Phytophthora austrocedri spreads to Nootka cypress
Three trees of Nootka cypress (Callitropsis nootkatensis) growing in a public park in the Glasgow area are the first cases of Phytophthora austrocedri infecting Nootka cypress. The pathogen is a statutory listed organism and the outbreak has been contained by destruction of affected trees. The most likely pathway of entry of P. austrocedri into Britain is via the plant trade since DNA of the pathogen has been found in diseased tissues of young conifers imported from other European Union countries. Phytophthora austrocedri poses a clear risk to Nootka cypress in its native range of the Pacific Northwest of North America and phytosanitary efforts should be focused on preventing its establishment there. More

Peru diversifies its horticultural supply
Peru is one of the most mega-diverse countries in the world and benefits from numerous ecosystems and is well-known for sending year-round asparagus to the UK. Through the progressive introduction of technology and innovative production and processing methods the Peruvian agriculture sector has incredible export potential. The country is already highly regarded for fresh produce like asparagus, table grapes, mandarins, clementines, avocados, mangoes, peas, chillies and squash while blueberry production is rising rapidly, and pomegranate trade is strengthening too. More

A fruit pill to tackle obesity, diabetes and heart disease
Two compounds found in fruits but not usually found together offer significant health advantages. The compounds are trans-resveratrol (tRES) – found in red grapes, and hesperetin (HESP) – found in oranges. When given jointly at pharmaceutical doses these compounds have been shown to act in tandem to decrease blood glucose, improve the action of insulin and improve the health of arteries. Researchers noted an improvement in insulin resistance in trial participants produced by these compounds after eight weeks treatment that was similar to that achieved with bariatric surgery after six months.

A silk wrap keeps fruit fresh without refrigeration
Biomedical engineers have demonstrated that fruits can stay fresh for more than a week without refrigeration if they are coated in an odorless, biocompatible silk solution so thin as to be virtually invisible. The approach is a promising alternative for preservation of delicate foods using a naturally derived material and a water-based manufacturing process. Fibroin, an insoluble protein found in silk, has a remarkable ability to stabilize and protect other materials while being fully biocompatible and biodegradable. In a study researchers dipped freshly picked strawberries in a solution of 1 percent silk fibroin protein; the coating process was repeated up to four times. The silk fibroin-coated fruits were then treated for varying amounts of time with water vapor under vacuum to create varying percentages of crystalline beta-sheets in the coating. The longer the exposure, the higher the percentage of beta-sheets and the more robust the fibroin coating. The coating was 27 to 35 microns thick. The strawberries were then stored at room temperature. After seven days, the berries coated with the higher beta-sheet silk were still juicy and firm while the uncoated berries were dehydrated and discoloured. More

Potato plants get defensive after underground attacks

Potato plants boost the chemical defenses in their leaves when Guatemalan tuber moth larvae feed on their tubers, according to researchers. The potato’s response protects against leaf-eating pests, ensuring the plant can maintain sugar production to continue growing tubers during the moth larvae infestation. The discovery may one day help reduce potato damage from insect pests and increase tuber yields. Plants with infested potatoes had higher levels of glycoalkaloids – bitter-tasting plant toxins – and chlorogenic acid in the leaves. When researchers reared fall armyworm and beet armyworm larvae on these leaves, the larvae gained less weight than when they fed on unexposed plants. This response may help plants to maintain healthy foliage with high levels of photosynthesis, so they can overcompensate for the tubers lost to moth larvae. More

Potato blight fight stands up to global crop disease
Scientists have developed a faster and more efficient system of identifying and cloning resistance (R) genes from wild potato species to P. infestans. Using a combination of next generation sequencing (NGS) and bioinformatics techniques, this will pave the way for more effective crop improvement to withstand this global threat to agriculture. This vital work has shown that the application of RenSeq SMRT to identifying R genes from wild relatives of potatoes can help us to rapidly identify and clone important resistance genes. These can be applied to various wild Solanum species, which contain the necessary genetic variability to help us combat the severe global threat of potato blight. More

How Trees Calm Us Down
An analysis of health records by the U.S. Forest Service, between 1990 and 2007, found that deaths related to cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses rose in places where trees succumbed to pests, contributing to more than twenty thousand additional deaths during the study period. Canadian data shows a similar link between tree cover and cardio-metabolic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. For the people suffering from these conditions, an extra eleven trees per block corresponds to an income boost of twenty thousand dollars, or being almost one and a half years younger. What is most interesting about this data, though, is one of its subtler details. The health benefits stem almost entirely from trees planted along streets and in front yards, where many people walk past them; trees in back yards and parks don’t seem to matter as much in the analysis. It could be that roadside trees have a bigger impact on air quality along sidewalks, or that leafy avenues encourage people to walk more. But perhaps it is enough simply to look at a tree? More

Not all neonicotinoids are the same
A new study has found that one of the neonicotinoid insecticides – clothianidin – does not show the same detrimental effects on bee colonies as its close chemical relatives imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. All three neonicotinoids have been subject to an EU-wide moratorium on their use. This new study shows that each of the different neonicotinoids leads to differential risks for bumblebees. Our knowledge of the risk of neonicotinoids to bees is based on studies of imidacloprid and thiamethoxam and these findings have generally been extrapolated to clothianidin. However, in this study they looked at the three neonicotinoids in parallel and found that imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, but not clothiandin, exhibit toxicity to bumblebee colonies when exposed at field-relevant levels.


Events Calendar

SCI Horticulture Group events are listed here

Other Events of Interest:

How Plants Sense, Process, Integrate and Store Information
12 - 17 Jun 2016, Gordon Research Conferences
Holderness, USA

Tomato Diseases
13 - 16 Jun 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Malaga, Spain

Grapevine Physiology and Biotechnology
13 - 18 Jun 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Verona, Italy

Plant Biology for Sustainable Living
15 - 19 Jun 2016, Norwegian University for Science and Technology
Trondheim, Norway

Plant Biotech
19 - 21 Jun 2016, Canadian Association for Plant Biotechnology
Kingston, Canada

Landscape and Urban Horticulture
20 - 25 Jun 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Athens, Greece

Enhancing supply chain and consumer benefits: ethical and technological issues
21 - 24 Jun 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Cartagena, Spain

Plant Growth Substances
21 - 25 Jun 2016, The International Plant Growth Substances Association
Toronto, Canada

Virus Diseases of Ornamental Plants
26 - 29 Jun 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Singapore, Singapore

Multiscale Plant Vascular Biology
26 Jun 2016 - 1 Jul 2016, Gordon Research Confernces
Newry, USA

Exploiting novel sensors for detecting abiotic and biotic stress in crops
27 - 28 Jun 2016, Association of Applied Biologists
Sutton Bonnington, UK

Latin American and Caribbean Agricultural and Forestry Biotechnology
27 Jun 2016 - 1 Jul 2016

Flower Bulbs and Herbaceous Perennials
28 Jun 2016 - 2 Jul 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Kunming, China

Arabidopsis Research
29 Jun 2016 - 3 Jul 2016
Gyeong Ju, Korea

Frontiers and Techniques In Plant Science
1 - 21 July 2016, Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory
Cold Spring Harbour, USA

Pollinators, Predators and Productivity
12 July 2016, East Malling Research
East Malling, UK

Transforming Nutrition; Ideas, Policies and Outcomes
12 - 15 Jul 2016, Wageningen UR
Wageningen, The Netherlands

Fruit for the Future
14 Jul 2016, James Hutton Institute
Dundee, UK

Plum and Prune Genetics, Breeding and Pomology
17 - 21 Jul 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany

Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
17 - 21 Jul 2016, International Society for Plant Microbial Interactions
Portland, USA

Fruit Focus
20 Jul 2016, Haymarket Media
East Malling, UK

Genetics and Breeding of Cucurbitaceae
24 - 28 Jul 2016, Eucarpia
Warsaw, Poland

Colonization of the Terrestrial Environment
25 - 27 Jul 2016, New Phytologist Trust
Britol, UK

Woody Ornamentals of the Temperate Zone
2 - 5 Aug 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Mineapolis, USA

Phenotyping for photosynthesis and productivity
4 - 6 Aug 2016, University of Essex
Colchester, UK

Plants and BioEnergy
4 - 7 Aug 2016
Santa Fe, USA

Potato Research, Pathology and Pests
7 - 11 Aug 2016, James Hutton Institute
Dundee, UK

All Africa horticultural congress
7 - 12 Aug 2016,
Ibadan, Nigeria

Photosynthesis in a Changing World
7 - 12 Aug 2016, International Society of Photosynthesis Research
Maastricht, The Netherlands

Germplasm of Ornamental
8 - 12 Aug 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Atlanta, USA

International Strawberry Symposium
13 - 17 Aug 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Quebec, Canada

Seed Ecology
21 - 25 Aug 2016, International Society for Seed Science
Caete, Brazil

Integrating Canopy, Rootstockand Environmental Physiology in Orchard Systems
28 Aug 2016 - 2 Sep 2016, International Society for Seed Science
Bologna, Italy


Horticulture Group Contact Details

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

Chairman - Tony Girard
Meetings Coordinator - Peter Grimbly
Minutes Secretary - Margaret Waddy
Newsletter co-ordinator - Sue Grimbly scihortigroup@btinternet.com


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