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International Society for Horticultural Science

Horticulture Research International

United Kingdom

General info
For questions and/or remarks regarding the content of these pages, feel free to contact the respective ISHS Council representatives who not only represent their country on ISHS Council but who are also invited to maintain the information included in the ISHS HRI Directory pages. For details on how to update your own details we refer to the FAQ pages on this site.

Climate
Average mean temperatures range from 8°C in the north to 12°C in the south with monthly means typically 5°C lower than these averages in winter and 5°C higher in summer. The prevailing wind is from the south-west and as it passes first over the Atlantic Ocean, the mild wet air ensures that the mountainous north-west regions of the United Kingdom (UK) are the wettest areas. The major horticultural areas are in the south where the rainfall is between 500 to 1000 mm per annum. Rainfall is usually distributed evenly through the year but recent years with below-average rainfall have encouraged growers to use irrigation on field crops. The Gulf Stream flowing around the western coasts of the UK makes their climate relatively mild in winter.

Geography
The UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland comprises a number of islands situated off the west coast of mainland Europe, between latitude 50 and 58°N. The principal island is Great Britain which is comprised of England, Scotland and Wales. The Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, though small, are horticulturally important. The most mountainous regions are in the north of Scotland and Wales.

Horticulture
Almost all kinds of temperate horticultural crop are grown in the UK. However, although the efficiency of crop production has improved markedly in recent years, the UK growers' share of the domestic market has declined in many sectors. More than 150,000 ha of field vegetables are now grown with a farm gate value of £700m. Brassica crops are worth over £180m but while the area of calabrese has increased greatly to 7,200 ha in the 10 years to 1998, the area of Brussel sprouts has halved to 5,500 ha. Carrot is now the most valuable field crop (£100m). Lettuce remains an important crop with 6,000 ha grown (£90m), mainly of Iceberg types, but a greater area of leaf types is being grown to supplement the product range of cut salads.

Currently, just over 20,000 ha of tree fruits is planted comprising mainly dessert apples (8,000 ha) with smaller planted areas of culinary apples, pears, cider apples and pears, and stone fruits. Approximately, 70,000-100,000 tonnes of dessert apples, mainly 'Cox's Orange Pippin' or its clones, are marketed each season, and the production of culinary apples ('Bramley's Seedling') is similar. Clones of 'Gala' are currently the most popular in new apple plantings. 'Conference' is the main pear grown (22,000 tonnes p.a.) and the principal plum is 'Victoria' (6,000 tonnes p.a.). The strawberry industry produces between 55,000 and 75,000 tonnes p.a. with a market value of £60m from some 4,500 ha of land.
The protected crops sector (worth in excess of £250m) has seen the introduction of several novel cut flowers and pot plants, in addition to cherry, truss, and plum tomatoes, and many different kinds of sweet pepper. The need to supply products of high quality all year around has focussed attention on the potential benefits of altering plant spacing with time of year, the use of assimilation lighting in winter and carbon dioxide enrichment in both winter and summer. Production of bedding plants is the most rapidly expanding sector and many growers now obtain their seedlings from specialist propagators.
The mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) is the most valuable single horticultural crop grown in the UK with a farm-gate value in excess of £170m. The areas devoted to production in systems of either trays, shelves, or blocks or bags are roughly similar. Output has remained relatively stable and the main advance has been in the use of forced aeration to eliminate the production of offensive odours during composting. The UK hop industry continues to contract in acreage in response to a world oversupply of hops. In 1999, brewery stocks amounted to almost a whole year's supply and prices were well below the costs of production.
Field vegetable production has become concentrated in certain regions. The main centres of production of Brassicas, carrots and onions, are now along the east coast of England with cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts grown especially in Lincolnshire, and carrots and onions grown especially in East Anglia. Lettuce is still widely grown throughout England while calabrese is grown both in the east of England and in Scotland. More than 40% of strawberry production is located in the south-east of England and the principal production areas for tree fruits and hops are also in the south-east. The main production areas for glasshouse crops are in the south and south-east of England but there are still important areas in the east, north-east and north-west of England. In Scotland, raspberry is an important horticultural crop, while in Northern Ireland, mushroom production has increased greatly. Many growers of field and protected vegetable crops in the UK are closely involved with producers in Spain, Portugal and Italy, either through direct ownership or in collaboration with local grower or marketing operations.

Distribution of Horticulture
Field vegetable production has become concentrated in certain regions. The main centres of production of Brassicas, carrots and onions, are now along the east coast of England with cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts grown especially in Lincolnshire, and carrots and onions grown especially in East Anglia. Lettuce is still widely grown throughout England while calabrese is grown both in the east of England and in Scotland. More than 40% of strawberry production is located in the south-east of England and the principal production areas for tree fruits and hops are also in the south-east. The main production areas for glasshouse crops are in the south and south-east of England but there are still important areas in the east, north-east and north-west of England. In Scotland, raspberry is an important horticultural crop, while in Northern Ireland, mushroom production has increased greatly. Many growers of field and protected vegetable crops in the UK are closely involved with producers in Spain, Portugal and Italy, either through direct ownership or in collaboration with local grower or marketing operations.

Research Thrusts
Over the past decade, reductions in government funding have seen a substantial withdrawal of public sector funds from horticultural R&D. Funding from growers is collected through two compulsory levy boards, the Horticultural Development Council (HDC) and the Apple and Pear Research Council (APRC), both of which commission R&D that will be of immediate benefit to growers. Other sources of funding for such "near-market" R&D are charitable trusts and large companies. Government has indicated that the research it funds should be reoriented into food safety with increased support for organic production systems, for reduced pesticide usage, and for improvements in environmental management, and in consumer protection. Government funding of strategic research is channelled largely via the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in England and Wales, and the Scottish Office Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Department (SOAEFD). Funding of basic research is via the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which encourages basic research relevant to key crops that will underpin the longer-term needs of retailers and processors as well as growers, with greater emphasis on product quality. Government also places increasing emphasis on industry/public-sector partnerships via the Horticulture LINK program administered in England by MAFF.

Nature of Institutes
The main public-sector research organisation concerned with horticultural research in England, is Horticulture Research International (HRI), which is sponsored by MAFF, while the similar body with some responsibility for research on horticultural crops in Scotland is Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI). HRI is a registered charity and was established in 1990 by merger of the then Institute of Horticultural Research located at East Malling, Littlehampton, and Wellesbourne, with the MAFF Experimental Horticulture Stations at Efford, Kirton and Stockbridge House. In 1995, reductions in public-sector funds contributed to the closure of the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute at Littlehampton. In Scotland, similar financial pressures led to the formation of SCRI and the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) both of which are grant-aided by SOAEFD. SCRI has a wide remit and is the lead centre in the UK for research on potatoes, barley, brassicas and soft fruit crops but also carries out research on a wide range of temperate and tropical crops. Although the bulk of HRI's funds (70%) still come from MAFF and the BBSRC, it is accepted today that public sector research organisations can no longer support their infrastructure and activities without commercial income. Consequently, all of the above organisations have established the capability to win business from the commercial sector both to increase revenue and to improve technology transfer. In addition, the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey have their own advisory and research services, most University Departments of Horticulture also undertake research, and an increasing number of companies and commodity associations undertake R&D for either their own or their members' benefit.

Organisations / Institutes:
Royal Horticultural Society
ADAS
Horticulture Research International
Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods (MAFF)
Royal Botanic Gardens
The Scottish Agricultural College (SAC)
Brogdale Horticultural Trust
Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association
Elm Farm Research Centre
Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR)
Natural Resources Institute (NRI)
Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO)
Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI)
Silsoe Research Institute
University of Nottingham
University of Reading

Regions:
Jersey, Channel Islands


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