Fruit Focus - Industry showcase

Exhibitors will cover developments in commercial fruit growing, latest industry innovations and the rapidly growing vineyard sector at this year's Fruit Focus, Gavin McEwan reports.

Fruit Focus: key event in fruit growers’ diary is held at East Malling Research and attracts growers from all over UK - image: HW
Fruit Focus: key event in fruit growers’ diary is held at East Malling Research and attracts growers from all over UK - image: HW

Next month's Fruit Focus will once again showcase the main developments in UK commercial fruit growing at a time of renewed optimism in the industry. "There's lots to discuss at Fruit Focus," says Nigel Trood, managing director at principal sponsor Mack. "Each year we see a very diverse but always relevant group of speakers in the seminar sessions and an ever-expanding list of exhibitors. It's a pleasure for the people at Mack to attend an event that really is at the heart of our industry."

Guy Poskitt, chairman of sponsor the NFU's national horticulture & potatoes board, says: "Fruit Focus is a key event in the fruit grower's diary and attracts growers from right across the country. The fruit forums give us the fantastic opportunity to update a large group of growers on current policy and technical issues, and hopefully provide some challenging top-level debate. This year we will be looking at the huge challenges of increasing consumption and getting the right research funding to support growth in our industry."

In recent years the Kent event has also established itself as a key forum for Britain's rapidly developing vineyard sector. UK Vineyards Association chairman Sam Lindo says: "Fruit Focus provides a one-stop shop for a range of suppliers and advice to the wine-growing and wine-making community. And for anyone new to the trade, Fruit Focus is an ideal introduction."

Moth control

Among innovations on display at exhibitors' stands, BASF is launching a new means of controlling moth pests in apples and pears based on complementary integrated pest management techniques. Pheromone mating disruptors specific to either codling moths (RAK 3) or leaf rollers (RAK 4) are deployed together with a predatory nematode formulation, Nemasys C.

BASF marketing manager Rob Storer explains: "The pheromones flood the orchard, the male moths suffer sensory overload and can't find a female to mate with, so no eggs are laid. The Nemasys C is applied to fruit trees when moth larvae move into the bark prior to pupating, and enters the pest and releases bacteria to kill them. It is crop-safe, effective and suitable for organic and conventional use."

He adds: "We see enormous potential for biological control in horticulture and are bringing a number of new pipeline products into commercial use for fruit growers, with new scab products for top fruit growers soon."

Another ongoing worry for top-fruit growers is the notifiable disease fireblight. Agrovista will be demonstrating its new fireblight early-warning system as part of its cloud-based pest and disease forecasting service for top-fruit growers, Growers Choice Interactive.

Its fruit agronomist Alex Radu explains: "Growers have to rely on preventive or antagonistic sprays against this serious bacterial disease, which makes accurate forecasting all the more vital."

Agrovista is also highlighting ongoing developments in its soft-fruit tunnel monitoring systems, developed by Plantsystems, designed to improve irrigation practice and disease management using telemetry and software.

Meanwhile, Belgian supplier Viridaxis will show two biological fruit pest controls for soft fruit. FresaProtect, which contains six species of parasitoids, is capable of controlling all common aphid species in strawberries, while BerryProtect offers similar protection in other soft fruit crops.

On the kit side, Team Sprayers of Cambridgeshire will be demonstrating fruit sprayers from Italian specialist SAE for the first time. Sales director Danny Hubbard says: "Rather than develop our own fruit sprayers, it makes sense to import proven machinery from a respected manufacturer equally keen to establish their Turbmatic brand in the orchards of England."

With a rear-mounted fan system to maintain pressure and uniform droplet spread, the SAE Turbmatic comes in a range of sizes and formats. Trailed models are available with fans from 650-910mm, certified for low power absorption and symmetrical distribution, with front or rear aspiration. These are also available with a tower aspirator. Tanks are offered in 600- to 3,000-litre capacities. A unique design combines a fresh-water tank mounted within the main tank that reinforces the overall structure and aids stability during road transport and when working on inclines.

Koppert will also show its two models of RotaBug biological agent dosers for large-scale strawberry crops. The RotaBug(R) is tractor-mounted and designed for use on tabletop systems, adjustable to cover from four to eight rows with one pass. It can also be used to equal advantage on beds of any height, including ground beds. The RotaBug (W) is a pedestrian-operated device, for use mainly on ground or low-elevation beds, adjustable to cover from two to four rows with one pass.

New cherry varieties

As UK agent for Germany's Grab Nursery, wholesale tree nursery Frank Matthews will be presenting a number of new cherry varieties available for planting this winter, including the white-fleshed Starblush and Stardust. Both large, heart-shaped and self-fertile. Growers can also be updated on developments in other stone fruit including apricots, mirabelles and late plums.

In storage, French supplier Janny MT will show its modules that can individually control oxygen and carbon dioxide levels as well as air moisture within a conventional cold store, so "allowing a maximum of producers to be masters of their own distribution", it says. With global ambitions for the technology, Janny MT has recently opened a North America subsidiary. will be showing its GoBox 1230 raspberry tray, GoBox 1251 strawberry tray and the GoBox 5351 growers' crate, as well as its general-purpose GoBox 1210 blue bulk storage container. The GoBox 1230 can be secured at the picker's waist, with fruits then packed directly into punnets loaded in the trays, which can then be easily stacked and loaded into a trailer for delivery.

The GoBox 1251 features ventilated walls, ergonomic hand holes and a strong, durable base, helping to hold punnets securely in place and preventing crushing.

Products for plants

For individual plants, Dutch supplier Bato will be showing three new products for soft-fruit growers. A square seven-litre cane fruit pot has a grid bottom for optimum drainage and can be combined with Bato's plastic drain gutter, while a 12-hole strawberry tray and an 18-cell mini tray are both nestable while ensuring uniform plant distance, with each cup having its own drip catcher.

But commercial exhibitors' stands are only half the Fruit Focus story. Once again there will be a range of talks and discussions on pressing issues, technical demonstrations and tours highlighting cutting-edge research in fresh-produce growing.

It is no accident that the show takes place at East Malling Research (EMR), the Kent research station where advances in fruit production have been developed for more than a century. Its farm manager Graham Caspell says: "The UK fruit industry is very much at the high-tech end of food production - many exciting technological advances have been brought about by strong links between growers, commerce and science."

He adds: "As a grower myself, I am convinced that keeping abreast of innovations and best practice is key to maximising margins, and Fruit Focus is the ideal venue to meet the people and companies that deliver these technological benefits across the supply chain."

Given the breadth of information to showcase this year, EMR has altered the format of its tours. Rather than having one long tour with several stops, visitors to the show will be able to pick and choose the research that is of most interest to them over different time slots. This year's topics include encouraging beneficial pollinators and predators, increasing pear yields and improving water use in soft and orchard fruit.

Several machines will be put through their paces in the show's live demonstration arena. They will include John Deere's specialist 5085GF fruit tractor and XUV855D Gator utility vehicle as well as Koppert's Rotabug.

Show details

Event Fruit Focus

Where At East Malling Research Centre, New Road, East Malling, Kent ME19 6BJ

When 22 July (9am-5pm)


Contact Jon Day - 01788 892042

Admission Tickets cost £10 and are available to buy in advance or on the day.

Forum topics: technical workshops cover key issues for fruit and vineyards

10am - Increasing consumption and reversing the decline in UK self-sufficiency

Minette Batters, NFU deputy president

The new Government has set ambitious goals for British farming of growing more, buying more and selling more British food at home and abroad - ambitions shared by growers and the NFU.

"As part of this we need to increase overall levels of consumption of fruit and vegetables, making it easier for people to get their five a day and in doing so help society and Government meet agendas to improve the nation's health," says Batters.

"We need Government to rebalance its funding of science to acknowledge the critical importance of applied research. We will outline the work being undertaken across the industry to increase the focus of research on outcomes that make a difference for growers and improve their ability to tackle plant health challenges and protect key environmental assets."

1pm - Vines to Wines seminar: Frost protection - managing cold air flows and cold air accumulation in the vineyard

Steve Hammersmith, chief executive officer, Shur Farms Frost Protection

This seminar will explain dynamics of cold air accumulation, how frost develops and steps the grower can take to lessen the impact of a frost event using both passive and active frost-protection measures. Growers will learn to optimise natural drainage and remove temperature differentials in the vineyard.

- The UK Vineyards Association will be offering technical workshops in the demonstration vineyard:

11am & 1pm - Summer pruning and canopy management

Roger Marchbank, independent adviser and former UK Vineyards Association deputy chairman

"These practical sessions will inform growers, especially less experienced ones, on how to maintain their vines in good condition during the summer to ensure they end up with good fruit come harvest time," says Marchbank.

12.15pm, 1.45pm & 3.45pm - Disease monitoring and economic viability

William Biddulph, independent consultant

- New AHDB Horticulture chairman Gary Taylor will then look at strategy and aligning research funding to help secure growth in the fruit sector. Other speakers are expected to be confirmed shortly.

Research tours: guided tours of latest fruit projects at East Malling Research

10.30am - Precision irrigation of substrate-grown soft fruit

Dr Mark Else, EMR

With impending changes to water abstraction licensing, all growers are likely to have to demonstrate efficient use of irrigation water. Else will demonstrate some of the latest substrate moisture monitoring and precision irrigation technologies.

11am - Concept pear orchard

Graham Caspell, EMR

Four different planting regimes are being evaluated in the orchard to establish which is the most productive in the British climate along with the improvement of the commercial viability of home-grown Conference pears. Caspell will update growers on year-on-year production in this the orchard's sixth cropping year, comparing yields and grade-out rates for the four systems.

11.30am & 2.30pm - Enhancing natural pollinating insects in fruit crops

Dr Michelle Fountain and Dylan Hodgkiss, EMR

This will focus on how best to harness natural pollinators in crops, particularly strawberries, and will cover identification, fruit development and the influence of insect behaviour on flowers.

4pm - Improving water use efficiency in intensive tree fruit production

Dr Mark Else, EMR

Else will summarise how research and technologies being developed at EMR are helping to inform decision making on irrigation and how these approaches are being integrated into commercial orchards.

Time TBC Predatory mites in soft and cane fruit

Dr Chantelle Jay and Dr Jean Fitzgerald, EMR

Projects at EMR are exploring the control of western flower thrips with the predatory mite Neoseiulus (Amblyseius) cucumeris. A trial on raspberry crops in polytunnels is looking at the effect of spray programmes on the mites and what strategies growers should pursue.

- The WATERR project team will also be on hand at these demonstrations to discuss the findings of the Irrigation Business Reviews, and explain how the WATERR grower support programme can help to deliver on-farm water savings.

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