Gillot on ... neglecting horticultural research

The closure of HRI Kirton (Grower, 14 August) was not entirely unexpected. The site is valuable and the work being undertaken there appeared to be at the bottom of the agenda as far as Warwick HRI was concerned.

Where, one wonders, will the great snickersnee fall next? Could it be Wellesbourne? The University of Warwick's latest public statement says not. But as Defra funding declines over the next three years and self-funding research becomes more difficult to obtain, the closure and sale of the Wellesbourne site could prove tempting. It would also bring in cash to help fund Warwick's obsession with its work on genetics.

No doubt there would be plenty of takers for the site. Its position near a major motorway exit would make it an ideal candidate for a new Tesco, or perhaps a theme park. Perhaps the latter would be more appropriate as successive governments' approaches to horticultural research in recent years have resembled a pantomime.

Those among us who are long enough in the tooth remember those heady days when, if you didn't arrive in the lecture room for the National Vegetable Research Station (NVRS) open days in good time, it was standing-room only. Over the years, much innovative research has been carried out by the excellent staff at Wellsbourne research centre - which has, in so many cases, been directly beneficial and applicable to the vegetable and salad industry.

How things have changed. The current run-down of research facilities brings to mind the words "baby" and "bath water". It is immensely sad.

 Ian Gillot is the former technical director of the British Leafy Salads Association

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