Get set for Fruit Focus

Visitors will be offered insights into the latest applied research and technical developments at this year's event, writes Gavin McEwan.

Fruit Focus: the line-up for this year’s show at East Malling Research Centre in Kent has been tailored for growers and suppliers in soft fruit, top fruit and vines - image: © Phil Clarke-Hill
Fruit Focus: the line-up for this year’s show at East Malling Research Centre in Kent has been tailored for growers and suppliers in soft fruit, top fruit and vines - image: © Phil Clarke-Hill

Fruit Focus returns to Kent’s East Malling Research (EMR) later this month with a line-up tailored to growers and suppliers in soft fruit, top fruit and vines who will benefit from insights into the latest applied research and technical developments in these fast-moving industries.

Specialist fruit supplier Mack returns as principal sponsor of the show for the fourth year running. Managing director Nigel Trood says: "Really useful opportunities for UK fruit growers to meet are few and far between. That’s why we see Fruit Focus as an unmissable event for Mack and as a core part of our calendar — and why I’d encourage growers across all UK fruit crops to make attendance a priority."

The Mack stand will highlight the company’s strawberry LED lighting project as well as offering tastings of a wide range of established and trial varieties of berries and stone fruit.

First-time exhibitor Fresh Forward will use the show to introduce itself onto the UK market. The Dutch breeder will in particular highlight two new strawberry varieties that will be available for show visitors taste.

Vivaldi is a mid-season June-bearer with shiny bright-red berries and firm flesh that does not bruise easily. Its long shelf life makes it suited to shipping long distances. Jive is a late June-bearer with large, firm, very shiny and consistently sized orange/red berries that ripen slowly. Harvested seven-to-ten days later than Sonata, it is said to offer greater resistance to heat stress than Elsanta.

The show is an important opportunity for the top-fruit sector too, according to English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow. He says: "The continuing development of the English apple industry, combined with new varieties and advances in storage, is creating huge opportunities to increase sales, not least by extending the season. Due to its timing, Fruit Focus will enable us to highlight the potential, particularly for increased sales in the summer."

Showcasing rootstock

Wholesale fruit tree nursery Frank Matthews will use Fruit Focus to showcase the new M116 rootstock, which is better able to cope with wet conditions. Though developed by East Malling in the 1960s, it has recently been taken up by growers as an alternative to MM106. With similar vigour, it has the benefits of strong Phytophthora resistance and retains high yields even after waterlogging.

Trials conducted by the National Association of Cider Makers in West Country cider orchards have shown that trees on M116 remain relatively unaffected by poor drainage and wet conditions compared to MM106.

Among the services to growers, advice and supply company Agrovista UK has a growing number of partnership agreements with specialist suppliers, so bringing new products and services to the industry. One such is with Plantsystems, whose solar-powered tunnel-monitoring solutions provide data on temperature, relative humidity, water deficit, conductivity and even wind speed direct to a PC or mobile device.

Working with partner Koppert UK, Agrovista has switched to supplying the native subspecies of bumblebee, Bombus terrestris audax, for fruit crop pollination. Fruit specialist Mark Davies says: "With potential changes in legislation expected, the decision was taken to guarantee availability for our UK crops."

It has also launched the Booster hive for outdoor crops requiring high-intensity pollination over a short time, such as cherries and blueberries. The two are also working with Viridaxis to promote Fresa Protect and Berry Protect, two products containing a mix of parasitoids to help control the typical range of aphid species affecting strawberries and raspberries.

Also on biocontrols, Fargro will be showing its new Lepinox Plus BT-based insecticide for the control of caterpillars on a range of crops including apples and pears.

Crop nutrition

On crop nutrition, Engage Agro Europe is a recent offshoot of North American supplier Engage Agro Group and will be launching its Polli-Build to the UK market at Fruit Focus. A nutrient spray for the blossom period, this uses organic acids, boron and bio activators to aid pollen production, hydration and germination. In its home market the product has already been found to boost fruit set and lead to more uniform quality.

Everris will be showing Select PeKacid, a patented new highly acidifying and 100 per cent ­soluble potassium and phosphate fertiliser for fertigation to feed crops including soft fruit in hard water or calcareous soil areas.

"Chloride and sodium free, PeKacid contains solid phosphoric acid in a dry form combining the advantages and efficiency of phosphoric acid with the ease and safety of a solid crystalline fertiliser," explains Everris speciality agriculture manager Scott Garnett.

Taking place in the fruit sector’s main research base, Fruit Focus is as much about new findings as new products and services. The first results from agronomy company Agrii’s new demonstration site for fruit production at EMR will be available at this year’s show. The 1ha site is being used to trial a wide range of apple and pear varieties, joined this year by Victoria plums, three varieties of cherries, apricot, strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants.

Agrii technical manager Colin Bird, who manages the trials programme, says: "We are testing new ideas and techniques that few individual growers would be able to find the time or resources to do on their own and that no other agronomy company is doing on such a scale for the fruit industry."

Joining Bird on the Agrii stand will be Fer Weerheijm, production director of coir manufacturer Dutch Plantin, for which Agrii was recently appointed UK distributor.

EMR will itself be holding one of the most varied so far of its now familiar research tour programmes. Topics this year range from pheromone trap management, a novel apple counting system, latest thinking on pear orchard management and a peek into EMR’s underground Rhizolab facility.

This is a unique facility that allows in situ observation and sampling of perennial crops, both above and below ground. Originally built in the 1960s, it was refurbished in 2013 and has been re-equipped to study the root growth of modern apple trees and perennial grasses, to understand the flow of carbon from plants to soil.

BASF is inviting growers to visit its stand to nominate a "solution wish list" to help channel the chemicals giant’s own research spend. "We invest €1.8bn annually on research and development, 26 per cent of which is in agriculture and horticulture," explains speciality product manager Rob Storer. "A big focus for this is in novel solutions such as bio-pesticides, root-stimulating bacteria and other agents that help to deliver a multitude of benefits like pest control."

Workshops and forums

Meanwhile, the NFU-sponsored Fruit Focus Forums have once again attracted a high calibre of industry figures to advise on current issues. Sess­ions this year include protecting crops and pollinators with NFU horticulture adviser Dr Chris Hartfield and seasonal labour in a post-SAWS environment with Gangmasters Licensing Authority chief executive Paul Broadbent and Association of Labour Providers chief executive David Camp. Sainsbury’s product technical manager Simon Hinks will also talk about the retailer’s relationship with growers and its vision for UK fruit.

Building on the success of recent years, Fruit Focus has once again teamed up with the UK Vine­yards Association to provide technical workshops in the site’s demonstration vineyard. The sessions this year are aimed at new growers in particular, covering summer pruning and canopy management, disease monitoring and economic viability.

Rewarding growers

Join the UK Grower Awards 2015 team on Horticulture Week’s stand (66) at this year’s Fruit Focus show to hear about the launch of a bumper package of award categories giving UK fruit specialists even more opportunities to demonstrate their achievements to key customers and peers.

Thanks to an exciting collaboration with Fruit Focus, the new line-up includes three new categories alongside the existing fruit sector specific awards for Top Fruit Grower of the Year, Soft Fruit Grower of the Year, and Best New Fruit Variety.

New for 2015 will be an award for growers of speciality fruit crops, an award for the best grower serving the viticulture market and an award for the best grower serving the cider market.

Other new awards include Best Production Manager and Best Agronomist of the year.

The UK Grower Awards which will be presented at a glittering dinner and presentation event in London next February, is the highlight of the production horticulture year, giving professionals the chance to celebrate achievement and ensure potential customers know just how good they are.  What’s more, it is now easier than ever for even the smallest businesses to take part.

Stop Press

Now Plastics (stand 238) will be exhibiting its new range of high-gloss stand-up pouches for packing fruit such as cherries and blueberries and will for the first time display the easy-peel punched-hole lidding film it supplies to soft fruit packers ...

Among kit on show from Clemens Technologies (stand 308) will be the new Atlas lifting pole launched in 2013 and a mulching device for wine and fruit growing with linear, hydraulic width adjustment ...

VOEN Vohringer (stand 100) will be showing its covers, which consist of a hail net base onto which is sewn a number of plastic flaps, offering permanent ventilation, and it will also show solutions for existing polytunnels with self-ventilating plastic on the side walls ...

Botanicoir (stand 302) will be showing its top-quality coir Precision Plus, which it says has helped drive company sales by about a third over the past 12 months ...

Hortifeeds (stand 104) will officially launch the Horti Boost and HortiHumic Complex range of organic bio-stimulants and introduce Plant Impact InCa to its soft-fruit product range, targeting fruit quality ...

Brinkman (Horticultural Service) UK (stand 312) will be exhibiting a number of machines including the Weterings Bio Chopper Compact that shreds crops such as tomatoes and strawberries as well as the Logitec Plus Coco Mill that has been developed to moisturise and break up compressed coir blocks in the proper way ...

Sharpak Aylesham (stand 364) will show new plastic packaging product lines to meet the growing surge in demand for healthy snacks such as berries, grapes and cherries ...

New to Fruit Focus will be Sorbus International (stand 222) showing the ARS pruning range used worldwide in commercial fruit growing and viticulture ...

Legro (stand 84) will be launching its fourth-generation coir substrate Legro Coir Air-Line enhanced with perlite ...

For the first time at the show, Micron Group (stand 340) will showcase its Enviro range of ground following sprayers for weed control in fruit and vines as well as its Turbofan and AU8000 sprayers for foliar treatments and the Micron Tank System 100L ...

Beekenkamp Verpakkingen (stand 218) will show its brand new 18-hole tray for the propagation of strawberry plants that will save growers 12.5 per cent of their production space ...

Holfeld Plastics (stand 90) will show a range of products including the recently launched K37/75 - a robust, deep punnet made from a blend of up to 90 per cent recyclate for larger fruits ...

Etesia UK (stand 353), the distributor of Pellenc battery-powered tools, has announced that it will now offer a three-year commercial warranty as standard.

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