Farming Minister discovers how Reading is securing the future of fruit
Release Date 23 July 2015
Farming Minister George Eustice MP visited the National Fruit Collection in Kent this week to see the vital University of Reading work which is helping to secure the nation's fruit industry.
The University of Reading has been responsible for scientifically curating and maintaining the collection, one of the largest fruit collections in the world, since 2008. It is home to over 3,500 named Apple, Pear, Plum, Cherry, Bush fruit, Vine and Cob Nut cultivars, and forms part of an international programme to ensure that there are enough food crops for the future despite climate and environmental change.
The Government's £1.9 million support is strengthening the research undertaken at the Collection. From apples that can withstand drought to cherries and plums that can flourish in heavy rain, genetic diversity will help to safeguard the future of British farming and ensure we can enjoy the Best of British all year round - whatever the weather.
As part of the University's role in developing the collections as a platform for research, along with their partners the Fruit Advisory Services Team, the University is involved in a project that aims to understand how specific traits, such as early and late flowering and ripening, are likely to react to future climates in the UK.
Minister George Eustice commented: "Our world-leading scientific research and strong fruit-growing heritage means scientists are finding new ways to ensure our food and farming industry continues to thrive.
"These developments mean UK consumers can enjoy our delicious berries, apples and pears come rain or shine and will also bring new opportunities for growers looking to export quality produce."
This year has been a bumper year for fruit crops, with near-perfect conditions resulting in six times as many apricots and 20 per cent more home-grown cherries than in 2014. With worldwide exports of British apples worth £16.3 million in 2013 -double the value in 2010 - there is real potential to further grow the fruit market to create jobs and boost the UK economy.
The University of Reading's Dr Matthew Ordidge is the Scientific Curator for the National Fruit Collection. He said: "We were delighted to showcase our work to George Eustice MP. Our research helps to recognise the potential value of the genetic material in the collection, for improving crops to cope with future challenges.
"It's hard not to be astounded by the range of varieties in the National Fruit Collection. I'm extremely proud to have a role in research to increase fruit resilience, ensuring that even as changing weather patterns affect crops, we can continue producing fruit for the nation. The bank of open data and the collection are recognised as international assets, and we invite researchers, breeders and growers to make the most of them."