Chief scientist leads call for strategic partnering in research

Strategic partnering between public and private organisations is the key to getting the UK's horticultural research base back on track.

This is the belief of Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) chief scientist Professor Ian Crute, who was one of the guest speakers at last week's NFU and Syngenta Bioline forum at Fruit Focus in Kent.

He told growers that there are "significant opportunities" for British fruit production to expand on its recent successes but "a strategic public/private partnership to build back capacity and ensure succession" is needed.

Crute added that producers and industry need to start driving this research as more than 70 per cent of it is now led by what he described as "the ologies" - meaning the research organisations.

Research, he said, needs to be more targeted so that it is led by growers and companies looking for solutions to specific problems. It's necessary to put more onus on targeted research to meet some of these real opportunities," he added.

The industry should also be shouting louder about its achievements to raise awareness of the importance of horticultural re-search, Crute argued.

He pointed out that, between 1995 and 2008, the percentage increase in yield per tonne per hectare was more than 50 per cent for dessert apples and 100 per cent for strawberries - achievements that should be celebrated.

Crute said: "The industry is not doing enough to shout about where that innovation has come from. We need to ensure that science and technology is communicated effectively."

He also gave some examples of where partnerships have achieved some useful outcomes - such as the industry's successful defeat of diffuse browning order. "The average member of the public does not really know that these things need to be controlled," he said.

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