AHDB launches 4 new strategic centres for field vegetable crops

Field vegetable producers are set to benefit from four new centres that will demonstrate the latest horticultural research in practice.

AHDB Horticulture’s Strategic Centres for Field Vegetables will showcase the latest ideas, science and technology to improve integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.

The demonstration sites, which are spread across the UK, will specifically focus on carrots, peas, onions and brassicas.

The centres will build on the success of AHDB’s variety trial programme, which has been running for over 20 years, incorporating grower-led research trials.

Dr. Dawn Teverson, knowledge exchange manager at AHDB, said: “This is a great opportunity for us to show research in practice to encourage the industry to adopt new ideas. It’s also an important way for us to work in partnership with growers to run demonstration trials showcasing solutions to the issues and challenges that are most pressing for them.”

The trials in the four centres will cover a range of topics to support IPM programmes, including:

  • Timing fungicide applications based on disease monitoring and forecasting;
  • Testing novel plant protection products; and
  • Developing an app to create UK pest distribution maps.

In addition to AHDB’s variety evaluation trials, further trials planned for this year include drilling depths and crop establishment for carrots and crop spacing to produce the required bulb size for onions.

Martin Evans, managing director at Freshgro and chairman of AHDB’s Field Vegetable Panel, said: “These centres create the perfect opportunity for grower-to-grower learning by allowing us to informally share and discuss our experiences from the current season with each other.

The demonstration trials and events will look at the whole crop management – from nutrients and water use to pest management – and will help the industry to improve its productivity.

The variety trials, which are funded by AHDB, provide an independent performance evaluation of yield, quality, shelf-life and storage potential.

New varieties help to improve the continuity of supply to supermarkets, so shoppers can continue to have great quality products available for more of the year.

Understanding how well varieties will keep in storage also helps to reduce waste in the supply chain. In previously funded AHDB variety trials, there was a 70% difference in how well onions lasted in-store between the best and worst varieties.

Dr. Teverson added: “This is just the start, we’re excited to build on the capacity of the Strategic Centres for Field Vegetables and we hope to extend the number of locations around the UK in future years.

An important element of these centres is that trials are grower-led, it’s growers who are recommending which trials they would like to see on their farms.

Growers, seed companies and agronomists will be able to view the trials at open days and events throughout the year.

The Strategic Centres for Field Vegetables are part of AHDB’s Farm Excellence platform, improving industry performance and success by sharing knowledge and ideas through farmer-to-farmer learning.

The trials

Trials planned for the centres include:

Autumn and winter cauliflower cultivars and spring cabbage trials in Lincolnshire and Cornwall.

Researchers will evaluate fungicide timing trial using spore trapping data and develop disease models for light leaf spot and ring spot.

The centre will also be used to test peat-free alternatives for propagation and nitrogen responses, as part of the EU INNO-VEG Project.

Red and brown onion trials in Norfolk and Essex to test yield, quality and storage performance in controlled-environment and ambient stores.

The trials will also investigate the optimum plant population density to give a higher percentage of class one bulbs.

Meanwhile, in Yorkshire, researchers will test carrot variety breakage as well as seed size and optimum drill depth.

In Lincolnshire, researchers will evaluate the crop’s tolerance to pea downy mildew and also test 13 treatments of biostimulant and nutritional products.

The centre will also be home to bean seed fly control trials as part of AHDB’s SCEPTREplus programme.