Developing innovative tools to manage risks associated with improving resource efficiency and fruit quality and reducing waste in substrate soft fruit production


More efficient use of inputs including water, fertilisers and pesticides is vital to the future success of all UK agri-businesses. Although over-irrigation and high fertiliser inputs can lead to excessive vegetative growth, increased disease susceptibility, lower marketable yields, poor organoleptic quality and a short shelf-life, many growers are reluctant to reduce water (and fertiliser) inputs due to the lack of information, suitable management tools and crop monitoring systems. Scientifically-derived fertigation strategies have been developed at East Malling Research that improve resource use efficiency, increase marketable yields and fruit quality and reduce waste during production. Scaling-up this precision fertigation approach so that it can be implemented safely across many hectares of high-value substrate strawberries requires a step change in the detail of on-farm measurement data. The project consortium (BerryGardens Growers Ltd, East Malling Research, Delta-T Devices Ltd, Eden Irrigation Consultancy Ltd and the Technology Research Centre Ltd) will develop new technologies needed to implement, monitor and manage precision fertigation across many hectares of high value soft fruit production. Imaging tools to assess plant health, quantify crop quality and predict marketable yields will be developed and validated against conventional but intensive scientific measures of productivity in commercial strawberry varieties exposed to differing degrees of biotic and abiotic stresses. The benefits to the UK horticulture industry will be improved resource use efficiency, reduced pesticide use, improved yield predictions, extended shelf-life and reduced wastage in store and better fruit quality for consumers.


10 25 50