A project that could have important outcomes for cider apple growers and cider makers across the UK has kicked off in the heart of cider growing country.
The Herefordshire Orchards Network of Excellence (HONE) - launched last month at Herefordshire College of Technology - aims to build a network of growers and cider makers committed to the future of cider apple growing in the country.
Over the next two years HONE will support growers through the trialling of their own ideas, as well as other new techniques and products. It will seek to raise knowledge levels of key sustainability issues likely to affect them in the future.
The project will link with the Herefordshire Orchards Community Evaluation project and is part-funded by Defra and the EU.
While it is a Herefordshire-based project, the organisers hope that all growers and cider makers can access results as they emerge.
HONE project manager Emily Durrant, who works for sustainability charity the Bulmer Foundation, said: "We aim to develop techniques for profitable environmentally-sensitive cider apple production - with less need for energy inputs - that respect the social and ecological need for orchards."
GROWER NETWORK SUSTAINABLE ORCHARD MANAGEMENT TRIALS
A major component of the project will involve creating and facilitating a network of growers to run trials in sustainable orchard management.
HONE project manager Emily Durrant said: "The National Association of Cider Makers funds a small amount of research each year, without which the situation would be much worse, and some cider-makers are now funding large research projects that are producing interesting new ideas.
"But these need to be tested on real farms with real growers. I believe that securing a long-term future for cider and perry orchards will also help our Herefordshire cider makers, associated employment and the unique heritage landscape that they represent."