Cucurbit research plan mapped by HDC

Draft strategy for levy-funded research put together at Horticultural Development Company event.

The first ever outdoor cucurbits strategy meeting, held by the Horticultural Development Company (HDC) on 25 September, mapped out a draft strategy for levy-funded research in the sector and moved forward the idea of a growers' association.

HDC vegetables research manager Jim Dimmock said: "We had a good turnout and a good cross-section of the industry. We agreed to prioritise key research items, which will be circulated to growers for approval."

Likely topics for research are blossom end rot, aphid control and uptake of trace elements, he added. "We will look for contractors to come up with research proposals. Then, with approval from our field vegetable panel, those could be up and running in March next year."

The possibility of a cucurbit growers' association was mooted. However, according to Dimmock: "We are not quite there yet. It's a useful long-term objective, though it wouldn't be up to the HDC to create it."

But the meeting failed to placate Britain's largest pumpkin grower, David Bowman of Lincolnshire, who did not attend. He told Grower he still wants nothing to do with the levy body.

"We have lawyers putting a case together (on the legality of the levy), which we will pursue after the harvest is in, after which we hope to call a vote," he added. "Thirty per cent of what we pay them goes on wages - they are simply feathering their own nest."

On the question of what a research programme could bring to the industry, he said: "We have managed without one for 40 years."

Harvest warning

Pumpkin grower David Bowman has said he expects this year's harvest to be down 20 per cent in volume, with poor summer weather leading to smaller and fewer pumpkins.

Colour is also an issue, he added. "We are rushing to get them in now so they will colour up in store."

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