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Kent-led consortium gains crops research funding

A Kent industry-led consortium has secured £1.9m from the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council for nationwide important crop research.

Berry Gardens, the UK’s leading berry and stone fruit production and marketing group based near Tonbridge, has joined forces with NIAB EMR, formerly East Malling Research, to fund a six-year PhD studentship programme for fruit-crop research, through a collaborative training partnership (CTP).

NIAB EMR was formed when East Malling Research (EMR) linked up with the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), the international centre for plant research, crop evaluation and agronomy based in Cambridge. It will now create a grander and more integrated agricultural research centre with an international standing, including renewed horticultural research based at East Malling.

Prof John Mumford, chair of the East Malling Trust, which continues to support the work of NIAB EMR, said: “This funding success will play an important part in delivering vital fruit-crop research and recognises the world-class expertise that exists in Kent.”

The CTP will see the science coordinated by NIAB EMR with the 500 acre site continuing to be owned by East Malling Trust.

Richard Harnden, Director of Research at Berry Gardens, said: “This pioneering partnership between businesses, research providers and the AHDB will provide a world-class horticultural and bioscience UK research training programme.”

“I’m confident that the new Collaborative Training Partnership for Fruit Crop Research will address the scientific challenges faced by agri-businesses, from crop production, food quality and supply, through to consumer preference and reducing waste in the supply chain.”

The programme will run from October 2017 to September 2023, and will consist of up to 16 studentships in fundamental research areas, including plant pathology, plant breeding, soil science , entomology, plant physiology and crop agronomy, each integrated into the production horticulture industry.

NIAB EMR will partner with the universities of Cambridge, Nottingham and Reading to provide their students with top-level research facilities and expertise.

Berry Gardens are joined by industry partners spanning the supply chain, and include Worldwide Fruit, M&W Mack, Univeg UK, the National Association of Cider Makers, as well as retailer Marks & Spencer. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board will support the exchange of knowledge with the industry.

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