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The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale

The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale

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Kent scientists at forefront of UK’s agricultural research

The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale

The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale

Farming minister George Eustice visited East Malling Research, a centre of excellence for scientific agricultural research, yesterday (22 July), and revealed that government support means scientists in Kent are ensuring we can grow more, buy more and sell more British fruit whatever the conditions.

With £1.9 million of government funding, researchers at the Brogdale National Fruit Collection in Faversham can ascertain which varieties of fruit are most resilient to extreme weather conditions. This vital research on the Defra-owned collection has identified apples that can withstand drought to cherries and plums that can flourish in heavy rain, and is supporting the future of British farming to ensure we can enjoy the Best of British all year round – whatever the weather.

The Brogdale Collection has access to more than 3,500 different fruit varieties and their ground-breaking research is changing the types of fruit we eat. For example a ‘micro pear’ was discovered in the archives of the collection by a major supermarket.

Mr Eustice told KoS: “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.

“Science and technology is crucial to our strategy for food and farming, and the fruit sector is an important part of that. DEFRA is keen to support it.

“Scientists here are looking at things like extending the strawberry season. We’re now growing apricots here - there are exciting improvements being made. There’s also work looking at tackling pests and diseases.

“The fruit sector has always been innovative, and we have made available some funds to support that innovation.”

So far 2015 has been a bumper year for home-grown fruit crops, with near-perfect weather conditions resulting in six times as many apricots and 20 per cent more cherries than in 2014. In 2013 the global export of British apples was worth £16.3 million—double the value in 2010 — meaning there is real potential for the UK fruit market to expand and create jobs and boost the economy.

Dr Matthew Ordidge, scientific curator for the national fruit collection at Brogdale, added: “It’s hard not to be astounded by the range of varieties in the National Fruit Collection and 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.”

For further information on Kent’s burgeoning agri-tech sector, click here.

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