Too many messages. That is how outsiders view horticulture. "Lack of focus on the big picture" is frequently the summary of horticulture made by politicians and civil servants. There are too many sectors with their own agendas. That produces failures in developing clear policies across the industry.
For more than ten years, the National Horticulture Forum made brave efforts aimed at developing focused policies. Regrettably, it only delivered collaboration between producers and research providers. That left out the whole post-harvest chain through to retailers and domestic customers.
Can the newly launched Horticulture Innovation Partnership (HIP) do better? That means collaborative focus from field to fork. Certainly, embracing partners from the supermarkets is a good start. Bringing vocal support from across Whitehall departments strengthens that start further.
Even better, it seems, is recognition by Government that horticulture's value is in matchless productivity per unit of resource used. That gives horticulture unique capabilities for providing food security with minimal costs for climate change.
Repairing our fractured research pipeline is seen as HIP's substantial first challenge. New funding approaches are needed that will support applied science research aimed at maintaining food delivery. That is applauded but not good enough. Collaboration surely must be more ambitious. Horticulture in the 21st century delivers more than calories.
Horticulture provides nutritious diets for both mind and body. Collaboration must go wider. Medical partners should be embraced and seated alongside urban and rural landscape industries. The artificial schism setting damaging barriers that isolate food-chain delivery from provision for mental and physical welfare has been needlessly perpetuated for too long.
Horticulture is basically the control of plant growth. Collaboration that recognises that fact should release massive funding opportunities.
Professor Geoffrey Dixon is managing director of GreenGene international