Caroline Spelman highlights East Malling strawberry research

The Government's £400m annual spend on agricultural science provides "an opportunity to become climate-smart, energy-smart and water-smart", farming minister Caroline Spelman told the Oxford Farming Conference earlier this month.

"There's the well-known East Malling Research (EMR) project that has been growing strawberries with 70 percent less water," she said. "These results are now being transferred to potatoes - another crop with a high water demand."

For growers, adapting to climate change means managing threats, but also seizing opportunities, she added, with longer growing seasons and reduced frost damage allowing new crops to be introduced.

EMR chief executive Professor Peter Gregory welcomed Spelman's focus on production, which he said "for the Government and other bodies is now back on the agenda".

He told Grower: "We would like to see more resources going into investigating the growing of new fruits in the UK. Grapes are moving forward and we are trialling melons. There are opportunities for other fruits too, such as apricots and peaches, but we should do this now, not in 10 years' time."

He added "Right now we aren't getting the resources we need, but this speech is encouraging."

EMR is also "in discussion" about a ministerial visit to its Kent site, said Gregory.

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