Government research set to revolutionize Scottish berry growing

£1.3 million has been awarded to two Scottish institutes for research into the Scottish berry growers’ industry

     Three new UK government research projects are set to transform Scottish berry production. £ 1.3 million from the Government’s £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst fund has been allocated to projects led by the James Hutton Institute and James Hutton Limited to help Scottish producers meet the growing demand for home grown berries.

     Environment Secretary, Liz Truss compared the Scottish berry industry to the beef and lamb trade, stating this research would ’enhance our reputation for producing good food both here and abroad’.

     She said: "These projects demonstrate that by investing in the most cutting-edge techniques, and working collaboratively across the UK to raise standards, we can boost productivity and help more Scottish and UK producers to compete in international markets."

     The projects will use the latest advancements in understanding plant genetics to identify traits in raspberries that make them more resilient to pests and diseases, and in blueberries, traits that are better adapted to growing in Scotland’s cooler climates.

     These ’super-resilient’ berries would mean an extended berry growing season, allowing consumers to buy their fresh berries all year round, and enabling producers to cash in on the huge demand for blueberries.

UK berry exports have increased three fold in the past three years, from £1.8 million in 2012, to £5.3 million in 2014. This is due to a combination of dry summers, fertile soils and better protection which has seen the strawberry and raspberry production in Scotland double over the past ten years.

     Professor Bob Ferrier, director of research impact at the James Hutton Institute described the research as ’essential for the sustainability and commercial success of the Scottish and UK berry industry’.

     He said: "Through the UK government’s investment in applying scientific innovation to address challenges faced across the agri-food supply chain, we can help producers grow more robust, disease resistant soft fruit varieties that are better suited to the UK market and climate."

     This announcement comes during Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink which aims to promote Scotland’s abundant, quality produce and its key role in the UK’s food and farming sector.

     Food and drink exports across the UK were worth nearly £19 billion in 2014, with about 16,000 new food and drink products introduced every year, second only to the USA.

     Since 2014, the UK has opened 130 new markets, contributing to Scotland’s growing food and drink export market valued at £5.8 million.

SOURCE: FarnersGuardian