Horticultural research boosted with appointments at East Malling

East Malling Research is bucking the decline in horticultural research with eight new appointments this year and a further five to follow, chief executive Peter Gregory told industry representatives last month.

"We aim to reach a sustainable size given the sums likely to be available for horticulture research over the next three-to-five years," he said. "We will see the number of scientists here grow from 12-15 to 22-25 who will be able to bid for funding and, by working with the University of Reading, we will increase the number of PhD students too."

Gregory added: "This is close-to-market work and an opportunity for the industry to participate. Our new staff are young and enthusiastic but haven't previous experience of the horticulture industry - it is vital that they get out there and get up to speed on problems in the field."

The Kent research station launched an ambitious five-year strategy this summer that set out five "cross-cutting themes" covering diploid strawberries, the genetic basis of disease and resistance, soils and substrates, improvements to pre- and post-harvest practice and rootstock improvement.

On the last of these, Gregory said: "I have worked for 30 years on root research, but how and why rootstocks work we don't really know."

He added: "If we did, we could speed up the rate of improvement, and we are working to do this."


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