Horticulture Group Newsletter March 2017

15 March 2017

13 Mar 2017

Applications for this year's David Miller Travel Bursary Awards are now open and must be submitted by 17 April, 2017.

Last month saw the annual Cannington Conference organised by the Professional Horticulture Group South West. Four speakers representing different sectors of horticulture gave views on the effect of Brexit on the industry. A report on the meeting appears below.

This month we will be joining the Professional Horticulture Group South West on a visit to the Abbotsbury Tropical Gardens in Dorset. Six winters with little or no frost have been ideal for the many tender plants that flourish in the microclimate of these gardens nestled behind Chesil Bank in Dorset.

The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew are organising a symposium on the 'State of the World's Plants' on 25 - 26 May. In conjunction with the publication of a cutting-edge annual report, scientists and policymakers will gather at Kew for this 2nd international State of the World's Plants Symposium. An annual review of the major issues affecting plant diversity and abundance, State of the World’s Plants highlights how plants are faring and how this is changing over time.

This year’s State of the World’s Plants will have a special focus on Madagascar – exploring the country’s unique biodiversity and examining how we can tackle threats to it. Other topics for discussion include extinction risk, wildfires, invasive plants, medicinal plants and valuing nature.

Peter Grimbly


Horticulture and Brexit
Plant of the Month
News from our Associates
Horticulture Industry News
Events Calendar
Horticulture Group contact details
Related Links

Horticulture and Brexit

The Cannington Conference 2017
With negotiations for the UK withdrawal from the EU about to start, this year’s Cannington Conference took a look at the impact Brexit could have on the horticulture industry. The organisers, the Professional Horticulture Group South West, had invited four speakers from different parts of the industry to give their opinions.

Jekka McVicar, owner of Jekka’s Herb Farm
Jekka McVicarJekka started her herb business in her back garden in 1983. Since then, as she went on to describe, she has had to adapt her business to the changing commercial environment. After twenty-three years she describes the essential quality needed at all times and especially now is ‘Relentless Optimism’.

In 1985 she took on a smallholding, Rookery farm, to build her business and in 1990 started exhibiting to expand her profile. Over the years her success at winning Chelsea medals has become legendary and this became the cornerstone of her business. Having discovered that supplying ‘sheds’ like Homebase was not a way of expanding, she started mail order in 2005, a business she describes as full of headaches. Her next venture was Open Days and these have proved popular with customers and a successful way of maintaining the business.

In 2009 she was offered the opportunity of a large exhibit at Chelsea. Here she discovered the real power of the media when a minor ornament , Borage the Gnome, provided her with the best publicity she had ever had. However by this time exhibiting was no longer cost effective and she was making more money from open days so she has remodelled her nursery with these and workshops in mind. In the present climate she feels her nursery now needs to be ‘an experience’.

The adaptability she has shown over the years is what she feels is needed to meet the challenge of Brexit. The first impact however was very negative as her 'right-hand man', a Polish immigrant, decided soon after the referendum that his future was going to be back in Poland, not in the UK. This was a severe blow, especially when combined with the lack of skill workers in the UK to replace him. Plenty of people with knowledge and degrees but lacking in the necessary skills she lamented.

Tony Girard, Director Koppert UK
Tony GirardBefore the referendum Tony attended many meetings to try and understand what Brexit was likely to mean. He summarised his findings in the phrase, ‘The World is our Oyster’. There is a whole world beyond the EU and that is an opportunity the UK industry must grab. While he regards the referendum as ill considered, ill prepared, and ill managed it has certainly spurred rethinking and focussed the mind on opportunities elsewhere – new markets.

Within his business costs have risen by over 10% as much is imported. His answer is to look at what home grown products and services can be exported in return, in particular consultancy and new products. He feels that science has to play and will play the biggest part in providing what is needed.

He repeated Jekka’s plea for skilling UK people to fill the jobs. With two years or more of negotiations starting he sees Brexit as an opportunity but one where the right trade environment will be crucial if the UK is to make the best of it. It is a time for resilience and preparing the ground.

Geoff Dixon Geoff Dixon, Director Greengene International & Visiting professor at Reading University
Geoff analysed where the UK currently stood in the three areas of education, knowledge transfer and research.

In education the EU’s main contribution has been through the Erasmus programme which aims to increase staff and student exchange by increasing mobility, fostering partnerships and encouraging synergy between young people and politicians . The UK is an active partner both sending and receiving, although the UK’s strength and its language has meant we receive more people than we send. European education is adopting both our course style and our language so there is no reason why these collaborations should not continue after Brexit.

Turning to knowledge transfer he said that this is delivered within an EU framework of regulations – e.g. health and safety, agrochemicals etc. However the EU has not proved to be a business friendly environment. For example; most plant breeding has left the EU and while in the 1980s 70% of new agrochemicals were invented in EU this figure is now less that 7%. Although trade with the EU will remain, subject to EU rules, the UK can now rewrite its own rules and Horticulture must adapt to these.
UK R&D is now a major recipient of EU funds and Brexit has undoubtedly created an element of uncertainty in the future. However, UK Research is hugely successful and it would be to the EU’s disadvantage to sever ties.

Geoff ended on a similar vein to Tony Girard by illustrating UK’s skill in developing new technologies, one of the assets that hopefully will enable the country to move forward post-Brexit.

Adam Martin, Sherbourne Turf and Queen Thorne landscapes
Adam MartinIn preparing for his talk Adam had contacted some of his suppliers. A common theme that emerged was the inevitable price increases that had occurred much, though by no means all, caused by the drop in the value of the pound. While most increases amounted to between 5-10% one company reported a rise of 28%.

His biggest concern was that during the negotiations there would be periods of optimism and pessimism creating a fluctuating business environment which would make planning difficult and create uncertainty. While the business environment will be competitive he did not feel that the higher end of his business would be so badly affected.

He was particularly concerned about the impact of the media on public perception and consequently people's purchasing decisions. He asked, does horticulture do enough to counter the negative publicity on which much of the media thrive and his overall conclusion was, no it doesn’t.

Peter Grimbly


Plant of the Month

Drosera arcturi, sundew, Droseraceae

DroseraEncountered in peaty boggy ground on top of Ben Lomond and Mount Field in two different parts of Tasmania, these tiny but beautiful plants were captivating (pictures right by Alison Foster).

The genus name Drosera, derives from the Greek word droseros, meaning dewy. The leaves of this genus are all edged with glandular hairs that emit sticky secretions and look like they are edged with dew.

The sticky liquid enables the plant to capture small insects and also contains enzymes to digest them. The sweet secretions attract the insects in which they either die from asphyxiation or from exhaustion after struggling to get away. A second type of gland on the leaves then absorbs the resulting nutrient rich liquid. The stalked glands, or tentacles as they are sometimes known, can also bend to move the trapped prey closer to the centre of the leaf.

There are around 200 species of Drosera, and the genus has a pretty much cosmopolitan distribution although Australia is a main centre of diversity being home to around half of all species. There are seven species native to Tasmania, including Drosera arcturi, which has a distribution across Tasmania, parts of south east Australia and alpine New Zealand.

Seen growing alongside the sundew were carpets of pineapple grass, Astelia alpina, and a range of cushion plants.

Alison Foster
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Medicinal plant (Product) of the month

Drosera rotundifolia, sundew, Droseraceae

DroseraThis sundew is a native of Europe, North America and Asia, with rounded leaf blades on long leaf stalks along with the essential glandular hairs (pictured right by Petr Dlouhý). It is normally found in damp places – bogs, marshes and fens.

A variety of sundews have been used medicinally including this species, although harvesting from the wild is not a sustainable practice. Whole dried plant is used to treat dry and chesty coughs and is an ingredient in some cough syrups. Research has shown this species to be anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. Specialised metabolites identified in the species include naphthoquinones, including plumbagin.


Alison Foster
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew



News from our Associates

CHACommercial Horticultural Association

Following last year's successful introduction of the Growquip conference CHA plan to repeat the event on 1st November 2017. Details are still being finalised.



Horticulture Industry News

Quinoa, food of the future
Quinoa, Chenopodium quinoa, was the staple ‘Mother Grain’ that fuelled the ancient Andean civilizations, but the crop was marginalized when the Spanish arrived in South America and has only recently been revived as a new crop of global interest. As a result quinoa has never been fully domesticated or bred to its full potential. Now researchers from four continents have completed the first high-quality sequence of the C. quinoa genome, and they have begun pin-pointing genes that could be manipulated to change the way the plant matures and produces food. Quinoa could hold the key to feeding the world’s growing population because it can thrive in harsh environments and grows well on poor-quality, marginal land. More

All-year-round Broccoli
Scientists are developing a new line of fast-growing sprouting broccoli that goes from seed to harvest in 8-10 weeks. It has the potential to deliver two full crops a season in-field or it can be grown all year round in protected conditions, which could help with continuity of supply, as growers would no longer be reliant on seasonal weather conditions. This innovation in crop production builds on the wealth of fundamental research on the need for some plants to experience a period of cold weather before they can flower. The timing of the switch to flowering is critical for a plant's adaptation to the environment and its resulting yield. The researchers harnessed this knowledge of how plants regulate the flowering process to remove the requirement for a period of cold temperature and bring this new broccoli line to harvest faster. More

Getting to the root of root flies
A new research project that involves scientists from nine different research institutions in the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, and Slovenia aims to address the problems of fly larvae that bore into roots. The three-year research project aims to improve the management of root-feeding fly larvae infesting outdoor vegetable crops using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. The key pest insects are cabbage root fly, turnip root fly, onion fly, bean seed fly and carrot fly. Control of them in Europe still relies mainly on the use of insecticides. There is a good understanding of the insects’ basic biology and ecology and several IPM strategies have been investigated but more needs to be done.

Fruit-wall orchards save apple growers time and money
Switching from traditional orchard systems to fruit-wall orchards could make mechanising the pruning of apple trees easier and cheaper for growers. Post-Brexit uncertainties about the fruit industry’s ability to source seasonal workers, combined with an increase in labour costs, meaning that more than ever, growers are exploring ways of mitigating the industry’s reliance on manual workers. Modern intensive orchards are already simpler and easier to prune than traditionally planted ones but it can still take between 25 and 40 hours of labour per hectare. In fruit-wall orchards, mechanical pruning work rates vary between 1.5 and 2.5 hours per hectare, so even though some hand-pruning will be needed, there is potential to save around £3,000 per hectare over an orchard’s 15-year life. More

100% male hybrid purple asparagus
A new asparagus variety has the potential to transform the economics of purple asparagus growing within the UK. ‘Erasmus’ is the world’s first 100% male, hybrid, purple asparagus that produces excellent quality spears at yields two to three times those of alternative purple varieties and offers comparable performance to leading green varieties. Rich in antioxidants and low in lignin, tender purple asparagus has considerable consumer appeal but has historically been associated with low yields and demanding fern management. Well suited to the UK climate, Erasmus offers enhanced performance in both areas. Its introduction is therefore extremely valuable to UK growers who have seen margins squeezed over recent years by unseasonal cold spring weather and rises in the living wage.

Foreign substance detection on fresh-cut lettuce
Non-destructive methods based on fluorescence hyper-spectral imaging (HSI) techniques have been developed to detect worms on fresh-cut lettuce. The technique depends on imaging algorithms which provide a prediction accuracy of 99.0%. The fluorescence HSI techniques indicate that the spectral images with a pixel size of 1mm × 1mm had the best classification accuracy for worms. The overall results demonstrate that fluorescence HSI techniques have the potential to detect worms and in the future, the researchers will be developing a multispectral imaging system to detect foreign substances such as worms, slugs, and earthworms. More

A new passive cooling and ventilation solution
There is a growing market for adapted greenhouse structures in tropical and hot climate regions. Researchers have developed an alternative evaporative cooling solution for greenhouses that is both cost effective and accessible. The technology is an improved natural ventilation based on structurally supported airflow and evaporative cooling-dependent temperature and humidity control. It relies on an alternative roof and misting system design to provide cooling and air movement. More

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Events Calendar

Innovation in Plant Biosecurity
15 - 16 Mar 2017, Fera
York, UK

Navigating turbulence in the produce supply chain and beyond
16 Mar 2017, Worshipful Company of Fruiterers
London, UK

Horticultural Science Exchange Meeting
22 Mar 2017
Wallingford, UK

Cactus Pear and Cochineal: CAM Crops for a Hotter and Drier World
26 - 30 Mar 2017, ISHS
Coquimbo, Chile

Landscape management for functional biodiversity
29 - 30 Mar 2017, James Hutton Institute
Dundee, UK

Postharvest and Quality Management of Horticultural Products of Interest for Tropical Regions
6 - 8 Apr 2017,ISHS
Kandy, Sri Lanka

Advances in Soil Biology
20 Apr 2017, Association of Applied Biologists
Harpenden, UK

Production and Establishment of Micropropagated Plants
24 - 28 Apr 2017, ISHS
Lavras, Brazil

CO2 Assimilation in Plants from Genome to Biome
30 Apr 2-17 - 5 May 2017, Gordon Research Conferences
Barga, Italy

Plant Biotechnology and Agriculture
21 - 26 May 2017,
Ciego de A´vila, Cuba

23 - 26 May 2017, International Society for Horticultural Science
Pontevedra, Spain

State of the World's Plants
25 - 26 May 2017, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Kew, UK

Postharvest Pathology
28 May 2017 - 2 June 2017, International Society for Horticultural Science
Skukuza, South Africa

Root Development
29 May 2017 - 1 June 2017
Umea, Sweden


Horticulture Group Contact Details

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

Chairman - Tony Girard
Secretary - Alison Foster
Meetings Coordinator - Peter Grimbly
Newsletter co-ordinator - Sue Grimbly scihortigroup@btinternet.com


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