The result of the general election has only increased uncertainty as to how the UK's exit from the EU will now proceed and what the repercussions will be for British fruit growers. This forms the backdrop to this month's Fruit Focus - now run in a joint-venture partnership by Haymarket Media Group with Comexposium, one of the world's leading food and farming event organisers - and in particular sets the context for its popular and influential Fruit Forum sessions, in collaboration with the NFU.
Expected to bring together 120 exhibitors and more than 1,300 visitors, Fruit Focus also takes growers through new varieties, crop protection, fertiliser and nutrition, as well as viticulture equipment and vineyard management, and offers insights into trials at the Kent research station.
Fruit breeding makes continual progress and James Hutton (stand 14) is inviting visitors to taste the newest varieties from its Raspberry Breeding Consortium at the James Hutton Institute. Among them is Glen Dee, its newest floricane variety, which boasts high yields, easy picking, long shelf life and uniform appearance and firmness after cold storage. It bridges the gap between mid-season and early-autumn fruit.
Growing-media supplier Botanicoir (302) will use the show to launch what it says will be "a ground-breaking new product that's set to be a game-changer in the soft-fruit industry". The coir-based medium is capable of rapid hydration, has optimum air-filled porosity, a superior structure and offers excellent drainage capacity and ease of steering. It has already been successfully trialled at a Hampshire strawberry grower. Managing director Kalum Balasuriya will unveil and explain the product at noon.
Fellow coir supplier Cocogreen (320) is inviting growers to get involved in field trials of its new Strawberry Moisture Control O2 Mix, based on a 5-7mm chip size, before committing to volume.
Commercial director Thomas Ogden says: "Substrates made from coir chips are already established in South African citrus and some overseas vegetable crops. However, strawberry plants are delicate and we are conducting extensive field trials to see if there are improvements to be gained before launching it onto the market."
The Engage Group (354) will use Fruit Focus to launch a new highly soluble granular iron to its Bio-Chel Platform, which employs a unique organic process to provide fruit growers with cost-effective chelates of high metal content via highly soluble granules compatible with multiple-formulation tank mixes.
On pest and disease control, the Bayer CropScience (8) horticulture team will be on hand to discuss how best to use its new Luna Sensation fungicide for powdery mildew and Botrytis management in protected strawberries and its potential uses in other crops. Apple growers can learn the implications of having emergency access to Bayer's Movento Top insecticide, which has already shown effective sucking-pest control in vegetable crops.
In biocontrols, Fargro (246) will present FLiPPER, a physical-acting bioinsecticide derived from a by-product of the olive oil industry that gives broad-spectrum control of insects and mite pests on protected crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries. Compatible with beneficial insects and pollinators, it also offers a unique leaf-washing action, preventing honeydews and sooty moulds from spreading to the fruit.
On monitoring, a new system from EnviroMonitors (374) aids growers' decision-making by measuring, monitoring and managing critical in-field data from remote locations through a network of sensors that can easily be added to, removed or relocated. Sensors can relay information on soil moisture, soil temperature, rainfall, soil salinity, air temperature, humidity and leaf wetness alongside pressure sensors and switches, flow meters and water-level indicators, all of which can be monitored and managed via smartphone apps.
Delta-T Devices (6) will demonstrate its new SM150T Sensor for measuring moisture content and temperature in soils and substrates. With simple installation and interface, the sensor can be used both portably via a readout meter for instant moisture readings or left installed in the soil connected to a logger to provide ongoing moisture and temperature data.
Other new equipment on display at the show will include the diesel-powered Bio Chopper Compact Shredder from Weterings Mechanisatie of the Netherlands. The machine is designed to shred or chop biodegradable plant waste from glasshouse crop production.
On the packaging side, the high-speed C80 pre-seal check weigher from Aja (525) separates punnets within specification that go straight through to the top sealer from underor over-weight packs, which are returned to be corrected using Aja high-speed DP under/over traffic light scales. It offers robust design and construction along with a Windows 10-based touchscreen interface, with easy connectivity to remote PCs or servers for archiving and overview of compliance and management data.
English wine is still seeing steady growth and a rising national and international profile. This year a record-breaking one million vines will be planted in the UK, making wine production one of the fastest-growing sectors of UK agriculture. This makes the Fruit Focus Vines to Wines section, in partnership with the UK Vineyards Association (UKVA), an important date on the English vineyard industry's calendar.
"The UKVA celebrated its 50th anniversary in January and has seen the UK wine industry grow tremendously in strength in this time, supporting and guiding producers throughout," says event director Jon Day. "Its experts will be on hand to give advice and talks at the UKVA forum."
UKVA general secretary Jo Cowderoy adds: "There has been a lot of talk about yield recently, especially after the spring frosts. This year it will be important to focus on quality in order to maximise profitability - something that Fruit Focus is really going to help growers hone in on."
Visitors will have the opportunity to tour NIAB East Malling Research's own research vineyard, which is set to produce its first ever fruit this season, though it too has suffered from late frosts. How to address this, and how different varieties and clones in the trials have been affected, will be among the topics being discussed.
For other visitors too, there will as ever be much to see in NIAB EMR's trial grounds, including a showcase of the latest developments in irrigation management and moisture-sensing technologies at the newly opened Water Efficient Technologies Centre as well as an update on the season at the Concept Pear Orchard, where a variety of continental and conventional English growing systems are currently being compared.
Meanwhile, AHDB Horticulture (28) will reveal some positive results of its three-year research project on alternative predatory mites for western flower thrips along with its other research projects relevant to fruit growers and will showcase the reworked RB209 fertiliser guide.
Attendance at Fruit Forums, in association with the NFU, is free and does not need to be pre-booked:
10am Securing sufficient labour for the horticulture industry Chaired by NFU chief horticultural adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, with speakers including NFU horticulture adviser Amy Gray.
11am Horticulture in a post-CAP landscape Chaired by NFU chief horticultural adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, with NFU EU exit and international trade adviser Tom Keen and NFU senior plant health adviser Chris Hartfield speaking.
When: Wednesday 19 July
Where: NIAB EMR (East Malling Research Centre), New Road, East Malling, Kent ME19 6BJ.
Tel: 01788 892040/892042
Vines to Wines
The Vines to Wines series of events offers a unique opportunity for estate owners and managers to learn the latest thinking on vineyard agronomy, management and profitability. Advance online booking is required.
10am Pruning workshop
10.30am Pest and disease workshop
11am Vineyard research tour
12 noon UKVA Forum: Yield quality and profitability Chaired by UK Vineyards Association general secretary Jo Cowderoy, with Rathfinny Wine Estate vineyard manager Cameron Roucher, vineyard consultants Duncan McNeill and Dr Richard Smart, and Dr Julien Lecourt, who manages NIAB EMR's own trial vineyard.
12.45pm Tutored wine tasting session With Jo Cowderoy, who holds the Wine & Spirit Education Trust diploma, exploring a selection of award-winning English still and sparkling wines.
1.30pm Pruning workshop