Dixon on...The UK's vanishing research community

Scientific research underpins Germany's continuing industrial success. Investments in mainstream science a decade ago included horticulture. The result is a generation of excellent young researchers intent on applying basic science to horticultural problems.

This exciting green science has caught the imagination of undergraduate students. Universities, "embarrassed" by swelling admissions, are hiring new staff.

Contrast that with Great Britain. At one end of the chain, no serious research-based university now offers degrees in horticultural science. At the other end, the volume of research output is so pitiful that fewer than one per cent of papers published in The Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology are British.

Yes, the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council has set up a modest research effort. Yes, the Horticultural Development Company is struggling manfully with support for applied development. Yes, East Malling Research, Warwick Crop Centre and Stockbridge Technology Centre provide robust research frameworks. Elsewhere, there is a mishmash of brave efforts and minimal funding.

Britain needs coherent education and research that excites young minds with the opportunities offered by horticultural science. Thereafter, business and industry must offer meaningful careers.

This is a long-haul process requiring mature political commitment. In Asia and South America, they have no problems filling courses in horticultural science.

The economists’ mantra of unlimited food supplies eagerly awaiting export into Britain is losing credibility. Climate change is reducing availability and burgeoning populations elsewhere are seeking a greater share of remaining supplies. Britain can supply much of its fresh food. Bitter experience suggests ensuring our own supply of horticultural scientists is wise. Industrial failure as a result of running dry on science-driven innovations would be catastrophic.

Professor Geoffrey Dixon is managing director of GreenGene international

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

What is being done to develop biocontrols against orchard pests?

What is being done to develop biocontrols against orchard pests?

The SIVAL horticultural trade show in Angers, France, this week (16-18 January) heard about several initiatives to promote more environmentally sustainable orchard growing.

What does the 25-year plan mean for growers?

What does the 25-year plan mean for growers?

Published on 11 January, the Government's long-awaited 'A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment' brings together a number of policy strands into a single framework that will impact many sectors, not least fresh produce, over the coming decades.

What will 'embracing change' mean for horticulture?

What will 'embracing change' mean for horticulture?

At the Oxford Farming Conference, whose theme was "embracing change", Defra secretary Michael Gove expanded on what a post-Brexit UK agriculture and land-use policy will look like and how it will impact farmers and growers.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon