British horticulture must raise its game if it is going to reach its full potential and be the best, says Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who left his Defra ministerial position for the Home Office last month.
Delivering the James Bruce Memorial Lecture at the Institute of Horticulture conference, held at Capel Manor College earlier this month, the former Taylor's Bulbs director described the shape and potential of each sector of British horticulture.
In every case he said investment, innovation, technology, research and skills are needed.
Of ornamental horticulture he said: "Considerable market potential remains. We have seen a steady erosion of British market share in own market and we have become increasingly dependent on imported stock. We seem to have lacked the focus and determination to grasp the opportunities presented by these expanding markets. I think this sector can recover British pre-eminence."
Referring to the Taylor Report, he said it forms the basis for a new engagement between industry and government, and recognises the need to provide near market research and technology transfer. "We need to continue to push this agenda," he said. But he feels that persuading citizens to give proper value to the skills of professional horticulturists is a big task.
"I believe we have in place the opportunities for investment, that we have the capacity for innovation, we should develop the technology and we can apply the research," he said. "We need to make sure that we have the excellence in our colleges and within the industry itself to produce a generation of horticulturalists who are going to seize the opportunities that I think are there for us."
Lord Taylor sees potential for a growth in the production of horticultural crops on the farm, the nursery and in the glasshouse. He also sees an increasing emphasis on the quality of life manifesting itself both in public parks and private gardens.
He adds: "All this will need highly motivated and talented individuals to deliver a new era for British horticulture. Bringing that about is a real challenge but it must be the Institute's role."
Institute of Horticulture Award recipients
The IoH Horticulture Awards are held by 50 people at any one time.
Six horticulturists have been recognised for their outstanding and significant contributions to the industry: Raymond Evison for breeding clematis cultivars, Clive Goatham for top fruit growing, Bernard Sparkes for tomato R&D, West Dean Gardens supervisor Sarah Wain, tomato grower Eric Wall and former Garden House head gardener and Wildside Plants owner Keith Wiley.
New IoH fellows: Dr Robert Ashcroft, William Cathcart, David Knott, Dr Charalambos Kordatos, Robert Mackey, Glynis Maynard-Bligouras, Ken McAnespie, David Mitchell, Iain Park, Adrian Stockdale, Dr Sidney Sullivan and David Toyne.