Rhizolab root-growth facility showcased at Fruit Focus

East Malling Research (EMR) showcased its field research and expertise during Fruit Focus, where it offered a glimpse of its restored Rhizolab, an underground facility for studying root growth.

Harrison: root biologist at EMR - image: HW
Harrison: root biologist at EMR - image: HW

A row above has been freshly planted with Gala apples on three dwarfing rootstocks - M9, M26 and M27 - explained EMR root biologist Dr Nicola Harrison. "We recreated commercial orchard conditions," she said. "There are so many projects we can do here - we can study the roots down to the molecular level, and measure carbon sequestration."

Fruit pest entomologist Dr Michelle Fountain explained how siting of pheromone traps within fruit trees is key to indicate when to undertake preventive spraying.

"With midges you are trapping the males, which pupate in the soil, so put the traps as low as possible. If you catch the first generation you have a fighting chance," she said. "But the codling moth mates at dusk and you need the trap in the canopy."

She added: "You have to assume you have spotted-wing drosophila and be ready to detect it. Traps should be checked weekly."

Technology Research Centre director Laurence Dingle then explained how the PomeVision system uses cameras to log positions of all apples in an orchard, so giving an early indication of yield. "It can be optimised for any variety, and has given accuracy of 92 per cent for Braeburn and 94 per cent for Jazz," he said.

"Mark two" of the system, due in February, will also measure fruit diameter and detect faults such as russeting. "It could even assist robot picking as it already knows where the fruit is."

The Technology Strategy Board-funded project is being developed with Worldwide Fruit and Fruition PO.

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