"Plants respond to water stress by producing hormones and when you can use those signalling mechanisms to improve resource efficiency and food quality - they can be considered beneficial stresses," he said.
Else's work on deficit irrigation is already well-known to the UK fruit industry. "A similar approach can be used in water-vulnerable areas overseas," he said. Among these is Kenya's Lake Naivasha region, where he is due to visit to advise on reducing water use in rose production.
In the UK, "this research is being rolled out commercially", he added. With the revival of UK cherry production, "we are about to begin a programme of research into the genetic basis of quality attributes", he said. "If they can be mapped, then they can inform breeding, leading to better storage, disease resistance or cracking."
Research is also underway on how rootstocks can affect fruit quality. "Together with Thanet Earth, we are looking at these mechanisms," said Else. So-called "designer rootstocks" could then be developed to cope with high salinity, for example, or to allow apples to be grown in low-nutrient areas.