The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) Potato and Horticulture sectors welcome the news that the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Scottish Government, have awarded more £3M in research funding from the Horticulture and Potato Initiative (HAPI) to support four projects focused on industry priorities.
HAPI has brought industry together with academic researchers to deliver high-quality, industrially relevant research projects aimed at achieving increased marketable yields of better quality fruits and vegetables for the consumer, through more sustainable farming practices. The four projects focus on potato and onion production, but could have applications for wider agriculture.
Dr Mike Storey, Head of R&D at Potato Council said, “The projects are addressing real industry priorities which are of direct benefit to the GB potato industry which delivers a sales value of £5.7bn at consumer level.”
“Projects which could significantly benefit the potato industry include a study that aims to reduce storage losses by using molecular biology to identify the genetic basis for dormancy and sprout control, which has direct benefits to over half the GB crop. The HAPI funding also builds on work that has already started in the potato and horticulture sector on biofumigation, a technique to suppress crop pests by introducing plants, such as mustards, into soil which produce chemicals detrimental to the pests.
“This has real scope in aiding Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) control which is estimated to cost our industry £26m a year. Around 64 per cent of GB potato land is infested with PCN and the disease is identified by growers as one of the most important issues affecting the sustainability of potato production, therefore this new research on biofumigation could have real impact.”
Jon Knight, Head of R&D at the Horticultural Development Company (HDC) said, “We’re pleased that BBSRC has identified the need to target significant scientific funding at the research and development needs of the horticulture sector. Whilst the focus of these projects will centre on onion and potato production at the outset, the findings could have a similarly important impact on the wider industry in the longer term, with potential application suitable for other crops.”
The funding will also address strategic research gaps, one of which includes a better understanding of how to develop strategies to manage host disease resistance and fungicides in combination. This is widely believed to be more sustainable than over-reliance on one control option and could significantly improve management options for potato blight control.