New centre to increase the sustainability and productivity of tree fruit

A Kent plum demonstration centre will now receive funding from AHDB to demonstrate ‘best practice’ and increase the use of new technology by tree-fruit growers.

Not only will growers be able to view the results of Innovate UK’s plum project, but the ready-made centre will now also support the development and demonstration of other new technology, to increase the growing season and sustainability of tree fruits.

The centre was established by NIAB EMR and is located in Kent. AHDB’s funding will help contribute towards its further development and the running of the centre.

AHDB knowledge exchange manager Scott Raffle said: “This new Plum Demonstration Centre offers growers the opportunity to see the results of a number of research projects in practice, such as soil management, weed control, organic mulches, SWD [spotted wing Drosophila] control and earwig-safe spray programmes.

Enabling growers to see the results of research in practice means they can have confidence to invest in new technologies and innovation.

“This will help them to increase the length of their growing season and make their produce more sustainable, through an increasingly challenging period.”

The orchard has been planted by NIAB EMR in partial fulfilment of an Innovate UK research project on ‘Sustainable increase of UK plum production’ and will include plots to demonstrate a number of themes in the project designed to extend the production season and improve plum profitability in the UK.

Three other orchards have been planted by commercial plum growers in Kent to showcase different plum varieties:

  • A.C. Hulme & Sons planted a number of early fruiting varieties;
  • S.W. Highwood planted late varieties;
  • G.H. Dean established a new plantation of varieties with high yield and quality potential.

It is also planned to seek support from machinery manufacturers to demonstrate a wide range of cultural techniques such as mechanised weed control and flower/fruitlet thinning.

Rob Saunders, AHDB Tree Fruit Panel chairman, said: “A centre like this offers a useful opportunity for us to instigate a centre of excellence where our recent and future research can be demonstrated in practice.”

Dr. Julien Lecourt, NIAB EMR senior research scientist added: “This Plum Demonstration Centre will offer a practical facility for tree fruit growers. I look forward to welcoming many visitors to the centre over the coming years.”

The results of the Innovate UK project are now available to the industry in a new online plum best practice guide.

It comes just after AHDB has launched three Strategic SmartHort Centres and part-funded the East Malling WET Centre.