Developing a water strategy for UK horticulture


CP 110 - Developing a water strategy for UK horticulture

Start Date: 
Completion Date: 
Project Leader: 
Dr Jerry Knox, Cranfield University
CP 110

HDC project cost: £13,973


The Problem:

In 2009, the HDC commissioned Cranfield University to develop a water strategy for horticulture. It provided a short to medium term (<5 year) assessment to inform implementation of the HDC Corporate Plan. It reviewed the key water priorities for growers and the industry, defined the research and strategic actions and timescales for implementation. Many of those priorities are still relevant today, but other issues have also emerged, particularly since the HDC relocated to Stoneleigh and developed a closer association with levy boards in the AHDB. The agro-economic and environmental policy landscape has changed significantly too – for example, the Water White Paper and ongoing government review of the abstraction licensing regime will have major implications for horticulture in terms of water allocation and abstraction costs. However, many of the ‘drivers’ of water use are still critical, including the need for water to maintain quality assurance and demonstrating sustainable and efficient water use as competition for limited supplies becomes more acute.

The original water strategy focused predominantly on grower priorities to cope with ‘too little’ water (improving technology and irrigation management). However, recent summers have highlighted the risks associated with having ‘too much’ or indeed a combination of drought and flooding in the same season. Finally, the impacts of a changing climate and managing the risks associated with greater climate uncertainty present a major challenge to the horticulture sector, in terms of identifying appropriate adaptation options that will increase resilience and support business sustainability.


Aims and objectives:

Given these factors, it is timely to review the 2009 HDC water strategy in the context of whether the priorities as set out have been addressed, which ones are still relevant, what new challenges have emerged and how best the HDC can work with industry and research partners to build knowledge to manage the emerging water-related risks.
Some challenges need to be tackled solely by the HDC, but others will benefit from a coordinated approach. Funding streams for agricultural and horticultural research have also developed and new opportunities to leverage additional support are available.
This short study therefore aims to provide an updated strategic review on ‘water in horticulture’ and develop a roadmap to help the industry identify the key water risks, collaboration opportunities, R&D needs and range of funding support options. Collectively these will help secure a fair share of water for horticulture by providing a framework for assessing the water impacts arising from regulatory, economic and environmental change.