SCI Horticulture Group Newsletter October 2016

29 September 2016

Members will be saddened to learn of the death of Prof John Bleasdale CBE, BSc PhD CBiol FIBiol FIHort earlier this month. Prof Bleasdale joined the National Vegetable Research Station in 1954. He was appointed Head of the Plant Physiology Section in 1961 and became Director in 1977. He became President of the Institute of Horticulture in 1986, received the Veitch Gold Medal of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1988 and was appointed Commander of the British Empire in the same year. Peter Grimbly attended Prof Bleasdale's funeral on behalf of the Group.

Our AGM was held on 16 September and we were able to welcome our new HQ contact Julia Duckworth. At the AGM Tony Girard was re-elected as Chairman and Alison Foster as Secretary. Alison takes over from Margaret Waddy who has provided excellent service for many years. Her service was acknowledged in a presentation from the Group.

After the AGM, one of this year's winners of the David Miller Travel Bursary, Carrie-Anne Twitchen, gave an excellent presentation on her work on Season extension and increased production of UK-grown strawberries. Carrie used her award to travel to a meeting in Canada and discuss her work with other strawberry scientists and growers.

On 4 October we will be visiting the ECO composting company in Dorset to see their composting plant, solar farm and aerobic digestion complex.

Peter Grimbly


The Wedding Photo
Plant of the Month
News from our Associates
Horticulture Industry News
Events Calendar
Horticulture Group contact details
Related Links

The Wedding Photo

The wedding photos are a key component of the standard celebration and much planning often goes into the choice of photographer and the location in which they will be taken. With this in mind many venues ensure there is at least a small well-tended garden to provide a suitable backdrop for the bride and groom.

Bearing in mind the cost of maintaining private gardens and not wishing to miss out on this potential market a number gardens have reversed this process and added or adapted the necessary facilities for the wedding reception. Three gardens show different approaches to this problem.

Lord LeycesterThe first of these is the 600 year old Masters Garden at the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick. This is a hospital in the same context as the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. However, when visiting please don’t be tempted to suggest that they copied the Royal Hospital as they are very proud of the fact that they were providing a home for old service men long before the Chelsea establishment. Indeed it is the very age of the buildings that provides the ready-made backdrop for weddings while the intimate spaces of the Master’s Garden provide a backdrop for the photos of the bride and groom. However it is sadly too intimate for the wedding guests to be included as well.

Another intimate location is the Lamorran House Garden created by Robert Dudley–Crooke on a steeply sloping site near the tip of the Roseland peninsular at St Mawes in Cornwall. Given its south westerly location it enjoys one of the mildest climates in the UK and the garden
lamorranhas a tropical feel with palms and tender trees and shrubs descending via winding paths through a somewhat Italianate landscape to a garden of tender succulents. The steepness of garden created a challenge when the idea of hosting weddings came up. However the house at the top of the garden has a good size terrace adequate to accommodate a small reception where guests can enjoy views into the garden below and across the Fal Estuary beyond.

A temple like cupola of five stone pillars with a wrought iron dome covered, as the law requires, with a waterproof lining enable the wedding ceremony to be held in the open with the dramatic views across the open sea far below.

Continuing the Italianate theme, Compton Acres in Poole, Dorset enjoys a somewhat similar location with views across Poole Harbour. However this view was the downfall of the original house for which the garden was created. The view was more valuable than the house so the latter was demolished and the garden now forms a necklace around some well concealed blocks of expensive apartments.

Compton AcreWhen taking over the renovation of the garden the present owners, Bernard and Kaye Merna, knew they would need a number of money making features to make the garden financially viable. So, in addition to the usual cafe, shop and plant centre, they opted to build an Italianate villa to host large wedding parties. This purpose built villa has an upper floor where the wedding ceremony can be held, a ground floor where a reception for up to 250 guests can be held and a soundproofed basement for the evening disco.

In front of the villa is a flight of steps leading to a Italian garden and it is these steps and the garden that provide the engineered backdrop for the wedding photos. The planting design for this Italian Garden and indeed the whole garden beyond has been in the capable hands of Peter Thoday. Being an all-year-round venue they have had a challenge to provide colourful planting for all seasons as well as allowing for the inevitable wedding guest who steps on the well-tended plants.

Peter Grimbly


Plant of the Month

Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane, Poaceae

Beta vulgaris subsp vulgaris, sugarbeet, Chenopodiaceae

With the recent debates in the media around a possible sugar tax, it seemed timely to take a closer look at the plants that provide us with this commodity. Sugar cane and sugar beet each contribute approximately equally to the total sugar consumed but they are very different plants.

sugar caneSugar cane, Saccharum officinarum, (picture right by Vmenkov) is a member of the grass family (Poaceae) and grows well in tropical and warm temperate climates. It has been shown to be a complex aggregate of hybrids that were first domesticated in New Guinea where the stems were also used for weaving house walls. The immature inflorescence (picture lower right by B Navez) has been used as a vegetable in New Guinea.

This plant grows up to 6m tall – a field of it in flower is truly a spectacular sight. The stem internodes accumulate sucrose – the sugar that the canes are harvested for. It is easily propagated by cutting the stems into sections and either potting them upright (in the same orientation as when they were growing) or laying them flat on the surface of the compost. Kept warm and most, they root fairly quickly and can then be potted on.

The sugar is extracted and purified in special mill factories with the waste material, known as bagasse, being used as a biofuel and as pulp for paper production. The sugar extract can also be fermented to produce ethanol, another potential biofuel.

Sugar cane cultivation spread from the Arabian Peninsula around the 8th century into the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia and North Africa. Christopher Columbus is reported to be the first person to take this plant to the Caribbean, thus perhaps rather unwittingly fuelling, if not starting, the slave trade. Today, one might say that people are enslaved by sugar in rather a different way.

cugar beetSugar beet, Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris, on the other hand is a rather lowly plant that grows well in climates such as that found in the UK. According to British Sugar, an average of 7.5 million tonnes of sugar beet are grown each year in this country.

Sugar beet is a root crop like its very close relative beetroot, which is actually a different selection of the same species. In the mid-18th century, the King of Prussia was encouraging scientists to extract sugar from beetroots. A close relative of beetroot, mangel-wurzel, was also studied and one particular cultivar from Halberstadt in modern day Germany was found to have a 6% sugar content. This selection is the progenitor of all modern sugar beets (pictures right by Markus Hagenlocher and 4028mdk09).

Sugar beet cultivation for sugar production did not commence on any great scale until after the sugar shortages during World War I. Outside of the European Union, the USA, Russia and China are the major producers of sugar beet.

Sugar beet is grown from seed – which is actually a coherent fruit enveloped in a woody calyx. This is the same as with beetroot and chard.

As well as its widespread uses in the food and drink industry, sugar has many other applications. It can be used for hair removal – sugaring – by making into a paste with water and lemon juice. Sugar cane has also been used medicinally in particular in southern Asia. Sugar is added to salt solutions to treat the symptoms of diarrhoea – its addition to the solutions not only makes them more palatable but aids the uptake of the salt.


Alison Foster
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew


News from our Associates

Commercial Horticultural Association

CHAStuart Booker who has run the CHA office at Stoneleigh is moving on to pastures new and we wish hime well in his new job. The CHA will now be administered fom the Brasted office of the Federation of Garden & Leisure Manufacturers.

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.

Royal Society of Biology

Royal Society of BiologyThe Royal Society of Biology submitted evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into the implications and opportunities of leaving the EU for science and research. They emphasised the need to create the best environment for science and research to flourish pointing out that collaboration is key to future success for the UK and for Europe, and all scientific nations require student and researcher movement. The full response can be read here.


Horticulture Industry News

A faster inoculation assay for Armillaria
Reseachers have developed and evaluated a faster inoculation assay for tree filling strains of Armillaria ( Honey fungus) that uses herbaceous plants as hosts, is carried out in controlled conditions, and reduces experimental durations from several years to 3 months. Through their assay, they identified five new potential herbaceous hosts of Armillaria: Kniphofia hirsuta, Hordeum vulgare, Lobelia cardinalis, Nicotiana tabacum and Helenium hoopesii – further expanding the extensive list of plants with susceptibility to Armillaria and suggesting infection of herbaceous species may be more widespread than currently acknowledged. More

Scientists unravel genetic ancestry of strawberry
Scientists have unlocked a major genetic mystery of one of the ancestors of cultivated strawberry. A genetic analysis aimed to improve the modern cultivation efforts of strawberry growers. The focus of the research is one of cultivated strawberry’s wild ancestors, Fragaria iinumae. This species of strawberry has only two sets of chromosomes, as opposed to the cultivated strawberry, which has eight sets chromosomes and is among the most genetically complex plants. The study constructed a linkage map of the seven chromosomes of Fragaria iinumae, which allowed them to fill in a piece of the genetic puzzle about the eight sets of chromosomes of the cultivated strawberry. More

Edible food packaging made from milk
Most foods at the grocery store come wrapped in plastic packaging. Not only does this create a lot of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable waste, but thin plastic films are not great at preventing spoilage. To create an all-around better packaging solution, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are developing an environmentally friendly film made of the milk protein casein. These casein-based films are up to 500 times better than plastics at keeping oxygen away from food and, because they are derived from milk, are biodegradable, sustainable and edible. Some commercially available edible packaging varieties are already on the market, but these are made of starch, which is more porous and allows oxygen to seep through its microholes. The milk-based packaging, however, has smaller pores and can thus create a tighter network that keeps oxygen out. More

Sunflowers predict the dawn
It's summertime, and the fields of central France are filled with ranks of sunflowers, dutifully watching the rising sun. Plant biologists have now discovered how sunflowers use their internal circadian clock, acting on growth hormones, to follow the sun during the day as they grow. Previously, the scientists had discovered links between 'clock' genes and the plant hormone auxin, which regulates growth. Growing sunflowers begin the day with their heads facing east, swing west through the day, and turn back to the east at night. The plant anticipates the timing and the direction of dawn. In a series of experiments with sunflowers in the field, in pots outdoors, and in indoor growth chambers the team identified a number of genes that were expressed at higher levels on the sunward side of the plant during the day, or on the other side at night. There appear to be two growth mechanisms at work in the sunflower stem. The first sets a basic rate of growth for the plant, based on available light. The second, controlled by the circadian clock and influenced by the direction of light, causes the stem to grow more on one side than another, and therefore sway east to west during the day. More

Fern protein protects cotton against whitefly
Scientists have identified a protein (Tma12) from the edible Indian button fern, Tectaria macrodonta, that is insecticidal to whitefly and interferes with its life cycle at sublethal doses. Transgenic cotton lines that express Tma12 were resistant to whitefly infestation in contained field trials, with no detectable yield penalty. The transgenic cotton lines were also protected from whitefly-borne cotton leaf curl viral disease. Rats fed Tma12 showed no detectable histological or biochemical changes, and this, together with the predicted absence of allergenic domains in Tma12, indicates that Tma12 might be well suited for deployment in GM crops to control whitefly and the viruses it carries. More

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Events Calendar

Other Events of Interest:

Crucifer Genetics
3 - 6 Oct 2016
Melbourne, Australia

3 - 7 Oct 2016
Antalya, Turkey

Botanic Gardens in South America
5 - 8 Oct 2016, BGCI
Cordoba, Argentina

Biology Week
8 - 16 Oct 2016, Royal Society of Biology

10 - 14 Oct 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Split, Croatia

10 - 16 Oct 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Yangling, China

Biology Week: Parliamentary Reception
12 Oct 2106, Royal Society of Biology
London, UK

16 - 20 Oct 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Valencia, Spain

Horticulture in Europe
17 - 21 Oct 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Chania, Greece

Farming Futures
20 - 21 Oct 2016
Warwick, UK

Mineral Nutrition of Fruit Crops
24 - 29 Oct 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Antalya, Turkey

Plant Senescence
31 Oct 2016 - 4 Nov 2016, Institue for Basic Science
Jeju Island, Korea

6 - 9 Nov 2016,
New Delhi, India

Taming Plant Viruses
8 - 10 Nov 2016, Biochemical Society
Pitlochry, UK

8 - 12 Nov 2016, Keystones Symposia
Santa Fe, USA

Advances in IPM
16 - 17 Nov 2016, Association of Applied Biologists
Grantham, UK

Tropical and Temperate Horticulture
20 - 25 Nov 2016, International Society of Horticultural Science
Cairns, Australia

Saffron Biology
23 - 26 Nov 2016, National Institute of Agronomic Research
Agadir Morocco

Sensors in Food and Agriculture
29 - 30 Nov 2016,
Cambridge, UK

Latest Advances in Plant Development & Environmental Response
29 Nov 2016 - 2 Dec 2016, Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory
Awaji, Japan

Policy priorities for the UK food, drink and farming industry
1 Dec 2016, Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum
London, UK

Natural Variation as a Tool for Gene Discovery and Crop Improvement
12 - 13 Dec 2016, Garnet
Cambridge, UK

Advances in nematology
13 Dec 2016, Assiciation of Applied Biologists
London, UK

Plant Synthetic Biology and Bioengineering
16 - 18 Dec, Society for Biologial Engineering
Miami Beech, USA


If you would like to advertise a forthcoming event please contact.



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
Group Contact - Julia Duckworth, E: T: +44(0)20 7598 1584


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