The Protected Edibles panel contributes around 20% of the annual Horticulture levy income. This sector panel encompasses protected salad crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, herbs, celery and aubergines; and most recently, Mushrooms (priorities listed separately here).
This overarching research and development strategy has been drawn together from the individual grower association documents which are all available on the website. It summarises the main four objectives of:
1. Crop protection
Crop protection continues to be a major concern for the sector with research and development of robust, sustainable, integrated pest and disease management programmes needed. The sector’s various grower organisations are working towards pesticide-free products and need supporting in this process. Fundamental science tackling diseases, across crops, is required particularly whilst optimising energy efficiency. In light of EC 91/414/EEC a continued identification of potential gaps in pesticides is important, with the Extensions of Authorisation for Minor Use programme (EAMU, formerly SOLA) providing support for chemical control options. Looking forward, it will be important to develop alternatives to chemical controls where actives are likely to be lost. Contingency plans for monitoring and controlling potential pests and diseases which may become established due to climate change are considered essential.
2. Increasing productivity through resource efficiency
The target of reducing labour costs per unit of production is a major challenge and involves business management, capital investment, staff training and in some instances, legislative issues. The high labour input required for this sector in current production systems requires cost-effective ergonomic solutions for the most expensive labour activities. In the longer term, novel growing systems that can be predominantly automated should be developed and evaluated for these crops. Efficiencies in all elements of the systems (e.g. water and fertiliser use) must improve to keep pace with competition.
Optimising the glasshouse environment will remain a priority with practical energy saving measures required. Areas of glass with CHP systems continue to expand and alternative energy options are always a priority. Growers need support with selecting alternative sources looking forward to a fossil fuel free age.
3. Achieving quality
Providing assurance of a safe product is critical to all ready to eat growers. Science to support risk assessment procedures and residue monitoring is welcomed. Research into nutritional benefits of crops would help the sector promote their products.
4.Improving environmental performance
The protected crops sector in particular needs to have a dynamic approach to the challenges of energy and emissions reduction. AHDB Horticulture's energy strategy should have constant review and input, by this panel, to respond quickly to government legislation and new technologies and transfer that information. Growers must be helped to identify and minimise their environmental footprint. In the future linking glasshouse production with low grade heat sources will mean efficient production systems can be achieved and waste heat utilised, actually providing a solution to achieve reductions of GHG from heavy industry.
Legislative pressures are increasing, not just for pesticide use and GHG emissions. Hence, greater emphasis will need to be placed on issues such as the efficient use of water, minimising run-off from nurseries and compliance with the waste management regulations. There is considerable scope to tackle these issues through a range of knowledge transfer initiatives delivering immediate assistance to growers. The government’s low carbon transition plan will affect all of agriculture and growers will need assistance to meet the requirements of the industry-led voluntary action plan.
The panel would also welcome input to the strategy from levy paying growers who may not be members of grower associations and would ask them to contact the Panel Manager directly.
AHDB Horticulture's communications team work closely with the individual scientists, growers and panels and have rolling sector plans of communications activities and outputs, these are highlighted in the Ccomments section.
Dr Debbie Wilson
Research and Knowledge Exchange Manager, AHDB Horticulture
Grower Association Research Priorities:
- Cucumbers: Download R&D Priorities for Cucumber Growers Association
- Herbs (Protected): Download Herb R & D and Knowledge Exchange Priorities 2015-18
- Leafy Salads (Protected): Download Protected Leafy Salad R & D and Knowledge Exchange Priorities 2015-18
- Plant Propagators Ltd: Download Plant Propagators Ltd R & D and Knowledge Exchange Priorities 2015-18
- Peppers: Download R&D Priorities for Pepper Technology Group
- Tomatoes: Download R&D Priorities for Tomato Growers Association (2014)