Industry failing to make full use of plant research facility

East Malling Research sees nursery disease enquiries drop from 120 to just 10 in one year

Nurseries are not using research that costs just £25 and could help them combat plant disease. Only 10 nurseries submitted diseased plants to Kent-based East Malling Research (EMR) in 2004, compared with 120 soft fruit and top fruit growers in the same year. EMR was privatised in 2004 and opened its plant clinic diagnostic service to help eliminate pests and disease in perennial crops. It charges £25 for a visual diagnosis and will send results within six weeks of receipt of the sample. Research leader in plant pathology Angela Berrie said: “Quality is so important to nurseries and it’s a shame they are not taking advantage of this facility.” Nursery samples that have been received included symptoms such as premature defoliation, vine weevil damage and root problems. EMR needs more input to ensure full use is being made of the service. Berrie added: “Without input from nurseries, there is a hole in our research.” The service is available to all sectors of the horticulture industry, including nurseries, commercial growers, consultants, technical representatives, supermarket technologists, distributors, importers and retailers. EMR is also running a project to reduce production times for perennial plants. It is in its first year of three. The project screens 21 HNS species to determine growth response in autumn and spring. The results of the project will be available in 2007.

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