Collaboration is a good call

The Horticultural Development Company's (HDC) report on the benefits of collaboration in horticultural research arrives at a time when public funding for applied research has reached its lowest point following a quarter-of-a-century's worth of cuts and reform.

As the study highlights in its call to the remaining researchers and funders to work together to get the maximum benefit for horticulture from remaining funds, critical gaps now exist in research provision in areas such as soil science, plant nutrition, weed biology and other aspects of crop protection. With the prospect of additional public funds in the foreseeable future a pipedream, collaboration, as the report argues, really is the only course of action.

Case studies from Defra's HortLINK programme featured in the report are designed to illustrate just how effective collaboration can be in an industry that grower and HortLINK project chair David Piccaver notes is "not renowned for that trait". But they also serve as a powerful body of evidence for anyone making the case for applied research in horticulture per se, and the critical role it plays in creating the conditions for growth and development.

They range from the use of genetic marker technology to widen the pool of root rot resistance available to raspberry breeders so they can supply the varieties their customers want, to projects that have helped strawberry and container nursery stock growers cut their water use dramatically - and associated costs.

Starved of this kind of applied research, UK horticulture will simply stagnate and die. HDC's call is a necessary one and must be heeded, to bring some degree of stability back to our research base.

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