Hardy Nursery Stock

Hardy Nursery Stock

Hardy Nursery Stock


The Hardy Nursery Stock (HNS) sector contributes around 10% of the annual Horiculture levy income and is one of the most diverse of the crop sectors. The sector encompasses numerous production systems, ranging from outdoor systems (field or container) to protected systems (glasshouse or tunnel). Businesses vary considerably in size and the markets they supply, and the most specialist nurseries concentrate on only a few plant species, while others may supply well over 1000.  


The HNS sector is subdivided into seven broad crop groups (approximate levy income shown):

Crop Group

approximate levy income

1. Shrub and Climbers


2. Herbaceous, Alpines and Grasses


3. Tree and Hedging


4. Roses


5. Heathers


6. Conifers


7. Aquatics



Around 15% of the levy income is from field-grown production.

The HNS sector priorities can be found below and cover the same three-year period as the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Corporate Business Plan and is based on the five AHDB Corporate Objectives.


Of these HNS sector priorities, crop protection is a key area for research and development funding. Robust integrated control solutions are sought for the ornamentals sectors and the key will be to provide strategies that work in practice. The panel supports the development of sustainable and robust disease control measures through the optimisation of the growing environment. The integration of pest and disease control with efficient energy use is a challenge that must be pursued.


In recognition of the cross sector relevance of crop protection challenges as well as the benefits that cross sector working within the Sustainable Crop & Environment Protection – Targeted Research for Edibles (SCEPTRE) project has brought to the edibles panels, the three ornamentals panels developed a call for new crop protection work under the Managing Ornamental Plants Sustainably (MOPS) project.  


Other cross sector topics identified as priorities by the HNS panel include energy, water and nutrient management.  The recent introduction of energy efficient LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) to horticulture has opened up new opportunities for the application of lighting in terms of both positioning lamps and the quality of light delivered.  The HNS panel collaborated with the PO and PE panels to develop a joint call resulting in project CP 125 (Understanding crop and pest responses to LED lighting to maximise horticultural crop quality and reduce the use of PGRs) to support levy payers in exploiting this rapidly evolving technology. 


Following recent projects to review and improve nutrient management in container-grown hardy nursery stock and water and irrigation best practice, the next challenge is to transfer this knowledge and investigate further techniques to match nutrient and water application to crop demand. Reducing nursery labour costs per unit of output and increasing the use of automation on nurseries are also challenges to the sector. In particular, there is a need to increase plant uniformity in production units to facilitate mechanisation.


The HNS Panel will look to work with the Protected Ornamentals (PO) panel and other sector panels as relevant, to ensure that the levy funds are spent on research efficiently. Applications for funding that address the targets described in the Sector Priorities are preferred by the HNS Panel (a group of elected representatives from industry who decide the activities that should receive funding), however the Panel will consider any application that helps the sector achieve long-term profitability and sustainability.


Based on past expenditure, there is an emphasis on work targeted at the two largest levy income ‘model’ crop groups; namely, ‘shrubs' and ‘herbaceous’. For field-grown crops, 'trees' are the preferred model crop group. Due to the importance of all HNS crop groups, the Panel encourages applications for work that leads to benefits (directly or indirectly) to a broad range of crops. 


  • Applicants must describe the potential wider benefits within the application form.
  • Applicants must develop submissions in consultation with the industry. Evidence of industry demand for the work should be clearly detailed within the application form.
  • Applicants must demonstrate awareness of relevant work conducted in other sectors – including work conducted internationally.  
  • The HNS Panel encourages applications that promote effective collaboration with key researchers and describe a methodical programme of work conducted over an appropriate timescale (up to five years).
  • The HNS Panel is encouraged by applications that demonstrate that the applicant has evaluated the potential for co-funding by other Horticulture crop sectors, where relevant.


Click here to view submission deadlines and procuredures for submitting applications for funding to panel.