Sustainable Intensification of UK plum production

Lead Research Organisation: East Malling Research
Department Name: Science

Abstract

The food retail industry is experiencing increasing demand from consumers for UK grown fresh produce and would like to substitute imports with home produce. The demand for home grown plums cannot currently be met due to unreliable and
inefficient cropping systems. This collaborative project will develop integrated new technologies that will address the major existing production problems and limitations for fresh plums. The sustainable intensification of this horticultural crop will be achieved through integration of a high-density growing system with new rootstocks, varieties and manipulation of tree architecture for increased yield, coupled with protected cropping regimes and component technologies that will regulate crop load, fruit ripening and give significant season extension. This intensive and profitable growing system will enable UK growers to confidently invest in plum production, delivering substantial economic impact (>£10 m/yr) to the UK horticulture industry.

Technical Summary

The food retail industry is experiencing increasing demand from consumers for UK grown fresh produce and would like to substitute imports with home produce. The demand for home grown plums cannot currently be met due to unreliable and
inefficient cropping systems. This collaborative project will develop integrated new technologies that will address the major existing production problems and limitations for fresh plums. The sustainable intensification of this horticultural crop will be achieved through integration of a high-density growing system with new rootstocks, varieties and manipulation of tree architecture for increased yield, coupled with protected cropping regimes and component technologies that will regulate crop load, fruit ripening and give significant season extension. This intensive and profitable growing system will enable UK growers to confidently invest in plum production, delivering substantial economic impact (>£10 m/yr) to the UK horticulture industry.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries of the outputs of this research will be the growers of tree fruit crops in the UK, the Producer and Marketing Organisations they supply and retailers and the UK economy as a whole. The UK plum industry is currently too small and in steep decline because of poor productivity and low profitability. This proposed project addresses the important UK horticulture industry challenge of making the profitability of UK plum production competitive with that of other tree fruit production systems so that the decline can be reversed and the UK industry can expand. Approximately 80,000 tonnes of plums valued at £60m are consumed annually in the UK, only about 15% of which are produced nationally. The UK market is undersupplied with UK produced fruit even in the main season (August-September) and there is considerable scope for import substitution. Some 20 years ago, national self-sufficiency was more than double the current level. The main underlying cause of the decline is the low returns UK growers obtain because of inadequate duration and lack of continuity of supply and variable, often poor, fruit quality, coupled with very variable and often low productivity of orchards. Good apple and cherry orchards return >£20,000/ha/annum, typically plums return < £3000/ha/season and often zero. Thus there is little incentive for UK growers to invest in new plum orchards because the vital tools for profitable plum production have not been developed. Moreover, UK plums are regarded by markets and consumers as a low value crop typically sold for £1-3/kg. Yet the UK plum can be a delicious eating experience, as good as or better than cherry (typically sold for £4-6/kg). Market and consumer perception of plum as a low value/low price crop is because of unreliable and variable taste and texture. In this project we will develop new intensive systems of plum production that will be financially attractive for UK growers to invest in. The aim will be to increase yields by >2 fo optimised planting and tree management. We will develop integrated methods to regulate fruit load (frost protection, thinning) so that a larger fruit size can be guaranteed and bienniality reduced. We will extend the season so that the market is continually supplied with fresh product for 4 months rather than the current 2 months (August-September) and improve the uniformity of product size and eating quality, hence increasing the average selling price. Together these improvements will lead to a step change in the profitability of UK plum growing and incentivise the industry to expand. Our aim is to revitalise the UK plum industry in the same way. All the key weaknesses of current production methods will be addressed including short season, poor continuity of supply, variable cropping due to frosts or variable fruit set, low productivity, inadequate fruit size and variable fruit quality. There has been little planting of new plum orchards in the UK in the last 10-20 years. A high proportion of the current UK plum crop is produced in old orchards including many that are semi-abandoned. The variety Victoria predominates which floods the market for 2 weeks in August. There is no incentive for UK growers to plant plum orchards because they are far less profitable than those for other crops such as Gala apples and cherry. This research will create a new and expanding plum industry for the UK based on reliably supplying the market with high quality, higher value product for double the length of season. The productivity and profitability of plum production will be transformed and the sharp decline in the area of UK plum production reversed. Beyond the project, the leading innovator businesses in this project consortium will spearhead a larger profitable UK plum industry. In the medium to long term, we consider that the UK plum industry will be able to largely supply the UK market for up to 4 months per year and that >30% of plums sold nationally will be home produced.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
BB/M028178/1 01/02/2015 31/01/2016 £696,005
BB/M028178/2 Transfer BB/M028178/1 01/02/2016 30/04/2019 £574,688
 
Description Sustainable Intensification of UK plum production 
Organisation East Malling Services Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The consortium for this project brings together companies and individuals from each step in the UK fresh fruit supply chain as well as East Malling Research (EMR), the pre-eminent UK research institute for perennial fruit crops and the Fruit Advisory Services Team (FAST), providers of professional advice and technical support for UK fruit growers. Six of the seven partners are already collaborating together on a project using field-based trials to develop integrated management methods for pest and disease strategies in plum and cherry production (HortLINK project HL0189).This previous experience means that personal relationships essential for good team work are already in place. EMR is the UKs leading perennial crops research institute with extensive experience in top fruit field trials as well as the necessary capabilities and skills to maintain and develop the trials. EMR-based field trials will be coordinated, established and maintained at EMR by the scientists, farm manager and farm assistants. Scientists including: a rootstock biologist, tree physiologist, statistician and bioinformatician will all be employed to undertake the necessary components on the project at all trial sites. EMR science staff have on-site access to the EMR produce quality centre facilities for fruit quality assessments, EMR plant pathology service, and to cutting-edge sequencing facilities and laboratory equipment.
Collaborator Contribution FAST, established in 1981, are the leading plum consultants and agronomists and have extensive experience in all aspects of plum husbandry. As well as advising many of the major plum growers supplying the consortium members, they manage the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale Farm, Faversham where they also have established several trial orchards of top fruit including variety trials of plums and other tree fruits, and planting systems of cherries, apples and pears. The main trial within work package 1 will be planted at Brogdale Farm, and will be coordinated, established and maintained by Fast, whose staff will be responsible for the day to day management of the plots and all the recording of the trials results. M&W MACK, TOTAL WORLD FRESH and NORTON FOLGATE MARKETING are leading plum marketing and producer organisations with many experienced plum grower members. They will arrange and assist in the conduct of the on-farm grower trials and will each employ a fruit technologist who will be responsible for the coordination of the these trials. SAINSBURY'S is one of the largest retailers of UK plums. The producer organisations on this project supply SAINSBURY'S who play a key role in product development and promotion. Sainsbury's will provide quality assessment of varieties through their weekly benchmarking tests and through consumer taste panelling at Chipping Camden alongside flavour profiling of plums.
Impact Owing to the confidential nature of the project, outcomes have not yet been made public at this early stage of the project. The project aims to develop improved methods for UK plum production. Grower members of the marketing and producer organisations involved in the project comprise a large (>50%) proportion of the current UK retail plum industry and Sainsbury's is one the UKs largest retailers of stone fruit. These businesses wish the project to benefit their grower members and businesses primarily. To this end, the knowledge from the project will be kept confidential to the project partners during the life of the project and will only be more widely disseminated to UK growers and industry beyond the life of the project. The collaboration agreement signed by all partners requires prior approval of all project partners before information is disclosed to third parties. We will be particularly careful to exclude knowledge from growers or agronomists from other (competing) plum producing countries.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Sustainable Intensification of UK plum production 
Organisation Fruit Advisory Services Team LLP
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The consortium for this project brings together companies and individuals from each step in the UK fresh fruit supply chain as well as East Malling Research (EMR), the pre-eminent UK research institute for perennial fruit crops and the Fruit Advisory Services Team (FAST), providers of professional advice and technical support for UK fruit growers. Six of the seven partners are already collaborating together on a project using field-based trials to develop integrated management methods for pest and disease strategies in plum and cherry production (HortLINK project HL0189).This previous experience means that personal relationships essential for good team work are already in place. EMR is the UKs leading perennial crops research institute with extensive experience in top fruit field trials as well as the necessary capabilities and skills to maintain and develop the trials. EMR-based field trials will be coordinated, established and maintained at EMR by the scientists, farm manager and farm assistants. Scientists including: a rootstock biologist, tree physiologist, statistician and bioinformatician will all be employed to undertake the necessary components on the project at all trial sites. EMR science staff have on-site access to the EMR produce quality centre facilities for fruit quality assessments, EMR plant pathology service, and to cutting-edge sequencing facilities and laboratory equipment.
Collaborator Contribution FAST, established in 1981, are the leading plum consultants and agronomists and have extensive experience in all aspects of plum husbandry. As well as advising many of the major plum growers supplying the consortium members, they manage the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale Farm, Faversham where they also have established several trial orchards of top fruit including variety trials of plums and other tree fruits, and planting systems of cherries, apples and pears. The main trial within work package 1 will be planted at Brogdale Farm, and will be coordinated, established and maintained by Fast, whose staff will be responsible for the day to day management of the plots and all the recording of the trials results. M&W MACK, TOTAL WORLD FRESH and NORTON FOLGATE MARKETING are leading plum marketing and producer organisations with many experienced plum grower members. They will arrange and assist in the conduct of the on-farm grower trials and will each employ a fruit technologist who will be responsible for the coordination of the these trials. SAINSBURY'S is one of the largest retailers of UK plums. The producer organisations on this project supply SAINSBURY'S who play a key role in product development and promotion. Sainsbury's will provide quality assessment of varieties through their weekly benchmarking tests and through consumer taste panelling at Chipping Camden alongside flavour profiling of plums.
Impact Owing to the confidential nature of the project, outcomes have not yet been made public at this early stage of the project. The project aims to develop improved methods for UK plum production. Grower members of the marketing and producer organisations involved in the project comprise a large (>50%) proportion of the current UK retail plum industry and Sainsbury's is one the UKs largest retailers of stone fruit. These businesses wish the project to benefit their grower members and businesses primarily. To this end, the knowledge from the project will be kept confidential to the project partners during the life of the project and will only be more widely disseminated to UK growers and industry beyond the life of the project. The collaboration agreement signed by all partners requires prior approval of all project partners before information is disclosed to third parties. We will be particularly careful to exclude knowledge from growers or agronomists from other (competing) plum producing countries.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Sustainable Intensification of UK plum production 
Organisation M & W Mack Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The consortium for this project brings together companies and individuals from each step in the UK fresh fruit supply chain as well as East Malling Research (EMR), the pre-eminent UK research institute for perennial fruit crops and the Fruit Advisory Services Team (FAST), providers of professional advice and technical support for UK fruit growers. Six of the seven partners are already collaborating together on a project using field-based trials to develop integrated management methods for pest and disease strategies in plum and cherry production (HortLINK project HL0189).This previous experience means that personal relationships essential for good team work are already in place. EMR is the UKs leading perennial crops research institute with extensive experience in top fruit field trials as well as the necessary capabilities and skills to maintain and develop the trials. EMR-based field trials will be coordinated, established and maintained at EMR by the scientists, farm manager and farm assistants. Scientists including: a rootstock biologist, tree physiologist, statistician and bioinformatician will all be employed to undertake the necessary components on the project at all trial sites. EMR science staff have on-site access to the EMR produce quality centre facilities for fruit quality assessments, EMR plant pathology service, and to cutting-edge sequencing facilities and laboratory equipment.
Collaborator Contribution FAST, established in 1981, are the leading plum consultants and agronomists and have extensive experience in all aspects of plum husbandry. As well as advising many of the major plum growers supplying the consortium members, they manage the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale Farm, Faversham where they also have established several trial orchards of top fruit including variety trials of plums and other tree fruits, and planting systems of cherries, apples and pears. The main trial within work package 1 will be planted at Brogdale Farm, and will be coordinated, established and maintained by Fast, whose staff will be responsible for the day to day management of the plots and all the recording of the trials results. M&W MACK, TOTAL WORLD FRESH and NORTON FOLGATE MARKETING are leading plum marketing and producer organisations with many experienced plum grower members. They will arrange and assist in the conduct of the on-farm grower trials and will each employ a fruit technologist who will be responsible for the coordination of the these trials. SAINSBURY'S is one of the largest retailers of UK plums. The producer organisations on this project supply SAINSBURY'S who play a key role in product development and promotion. Sainsbury's will provide quality assessment of varieties through their weekly benchmarking tests and through consumer taste panelling at Chipping Camden alongside flavour profiling of plums.
Impact Owing to the confidential nature of the project, outcomes have not yet been made public at this early stage of the project. The project aims to develop improved methods for UK plum production. Grower members of the marketing and producer organisations involved in the project comprise a large (>50%) proportion of the current UK retail plum industry and Sainsbury's is one the UKs largest retailers of stone fruit. These businesses wish the project to benefit their grower members and businesses primarily. To this end, the knowledge from the project will be kept confidential to the project partners during the life of the project and will only be more widely disseminated to UK growers and industry beyond the life of the project. The collaboration agreement signed by all partners requires prior approval of all project partners before information is disclosed to third parties. We will be particularly careful to exclude knowledge from growers or agronomists from other (competing) plum producing countries.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Sustainable Intensification of UK plum production 
Organisation Norton Folgate Marketing Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The consortium for this project brings together companies and individuals from each step in the UK fresh fruit supply chain as well as East Malling Research (EMR), the pre-eminent UK research institute for perennial fruit crops and the Fruit Advisory Services Team (FAST), providers of professional advice and technical support for UK fruit growers. Six of the seven partners are already collaborating together on a project using field-based trials to develop integrated management methods for pest and disease strategies in plum and cherry production (HortLINK project HL0189).This previous experience means that personal relationships essential for good team work are already in place. EMR is the UKs leading perennial crops research institute with extensive experience in top fruit field trials as well as the necessary capabilities and skills to maintain and develop the trials. EMR-based field trials will be coordinated, established and maintained at EMR by the scientists, farm manager and farm assistants. Scientists including: a rootstock biologist, tree physiologist, statistician and bioinformatician will all be employed to undertake the necessary components on the project at all trial sites. EMR science staff have on-site access to the EMR produce quality centre facilities for fruit quality assessments, EMR plant pathology service, and to cutting-edge sequencing facilities and laboratory equipment.
Collaborator Contribution FAST, established in 1981, are the leading plum consultants and agronomists and have extensive experience in all aspects of plum husbandry. As well as advising many of the major plum growers supplying the consortium members, they manage the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale Farm, Faversham where they also have established several trial orchards of top fruit including variety trials of plums and other tree fruits, and planting systems of cherries, apples and pears. The main trial within work package 1 will be planted at Brogdale Farm, and will be coordinated, established and maintained by Fast, whose staff will be responsible for the day to day management of the plots and all the recording of the trials results. M&W MACK, TOTAL WORLD FRESH and NORTON FOLGATE MARKETING are leading plum marketing and producer organisations with many experienced plum grower members. They will arrange and assist in the conduct of the on-farm grower trials and will each employ a fruit technologist who will be responsible for the coordination of the these trials. SAINSBURY'S is one of the largest retailers of UK plums. The producer organisations on this project supply SAINSBURY'S who play a key role in product development and promotion. Sainsbury's will provide quality assessment of varieties through their weekly benchmarking tests and through consumer taste panelling at Chipping Camden alongside flavour profiling of plums.
Impact Owing to the confidential nature of the project, outcomes have not yet been made public at this early stage of the project. The project aims to develop improved methods for UK plum production. Grower members of the marketing and producer organisations involved in the project comprise a large (>50%) proportion of the current UK retail plum industry and Sainsbury's is one the UKs largest retailers of stone fruit. These businesses wish the project to benefit their grower members and businesses primarily. To this end, the knowledge from the project will be kept confidential to the project partners during the life of the project and will only be more widely disseminated to UK growers and industry beyond the life of the project. The collaboration agreement signed by all partners requires prior approval of all project partners before information is disclosed to third parties. We will be particularly careful to exclude knowledge from growers or agronomists from other (competing) plum producing countries.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Sustainable Intensification of UK plum production 
Organisation Sainsbury's
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The consortium for this project brings together companies and individuals from each step in the UK fresh fruit supply chain as well as East Malling Research (EMR), the pre-eminent UK research institute for perennial fruit crops and the Fruit Advisory Services Team (FAST), providers of professional advice and technical support for UK fruit growers. Six of the seven partners are already collaborating together on a project using field-based trials to develop integrated management methods for pest and disease strategies in plum and cherry production (HortLINK project HL0189).This previous experience means that personal relationships essential for good team work are already in place. EMR is the UKs leading perennial crops research institute with extensive experience in top fruit field trials as well as the necessary capabilities and skills to maintain and develop the trials. EMR-based field trials will be coordinated, established and maintained at EMR by the scientists, farm manager and farm assistants. Scientists including: a rootstock biologist, tree physiologist, statistician and bioinformatician will all be employed to undertake the necessary components on the project at all trial sites. EMR science staff have on-site access to the EMR produce quality centre facilities for fruit quality assessments, EMR plant pathology service, and to cutting-edge sequencing facilities and laboratory equipment.
Collaborator Contribution FAST, established in 1981, are the leading plum consultants and agronomists and have extensive experience in all aspects of plum husbandry. As well as advising many of the major plum growers supplying the consortium members, they manage the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale Farm, Faversham where they also have established several trial orchards of top fruit including variety trials of plums and other tree fruits, and planting systems of cherries, apples and pears. The main trial within work package 1 will be planted at Brogdale Farm, and will be coordinated, established and maintained by Fast, whose staff will be responsible for the day to day management of the plots and all the recording of the trials results. M&W MACK, TOTAL WORLD FRESH and NORTON FOLGATE MARKETING are leading plum marketing and producer organisations with many experienced plum grower members. They will arrange and assist in the conduct of the on-farm grower trials and will each employ a fruit technologist who will be responsible for the coordination of the these trials. SAINSBURY'S is one of the largest retailers of UK plums. The producer organisations on this project supply SAINSBURY'S who play a key role in product development and promotion. Sainsbury's will provide quality assessment of varieties through their weekly benchmarking tests and through consumer taste panelling at Chipping Camden alongside flavour profiling of plums.
Impact Owing to the confidential nature of the project, outcomes have not yet been made public at this early stage of the project. The project aims to develop improved methods for UK plum production. Grower members of the marketing and producer organisations involved in the project comprise a large (>50%) proportion of the current UK retail plum industry and Sainsbury's is one the UKs largest retailers of stone fruit. These businesses wish the project to benefit their grower members and businesses primarily. To this end, the knowledge from the project will be kept confidential to the project partners during the life of the project and will only be more widely disseminated to UK growers and industry beyond the life of the project. The collaboration agreement signed by all partners requires prior approval of all project partners before information is disclosed to third parties. We will be particularly careful to exclude knowledge from growers or agronomists from other (competing) plum producing countries.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Sustainable Intensification of UK plum production 
Organisation Total World Fresh Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The consortium for this project brings together companies and individuals from each step in the UK fresh fruit supply chain as well as East Malling Research (EMR), the pre-eminent UK research institute for perennial fruit crops and the Fruit Advisory Services Team (FAST), providers of professional advice and technical support for UK fruit growers. Six of the seven partners are already collaborating together on a project using field-based trials to develop integrated management methods for pest and disease strategies in plum and cherry production (HortLINK project HL0189).This previous experience means that personal relationships essential for good team work are already in place. EMR is the UKs leading perennial crops research institute with extensive experience in top fruit field trials as well as the necessary capabilities and skills to maintain and develop the trials. EMR-based field trials will be coordinated, established and maintained at EMR by the scientists, farm manager and farm assistants. Scientists including: a rootstock biologist, tree physiologist, statistician and bioinformatician will all be employed to undertake the necessary components on the project at all trial sites. EMR science staff have on-site access to the EMR produce quality centre facilities for fruit quality assessments, EMR plant pathology service, and to cutting-edge sequencing facilities and laboratory equipment.
Collaborator Contribution FAST, established in 1981, are the leading plum consultants and agronomists and have extensive experience in all aspects of plum husbandry. As well as advising many of the major plum growers supplying the consortium members, they manage the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale Farm, Faversham where they also have established several trial orchards of top fruit including variety trials of plums and other tree fruits, and planting systems of cherries, apples and pears. The main trial within work package 1 will be planted at Brogdale Farm, and will be coordinated, established and maintained by Fast, whose staff will be responsible for the day to day management of the plots and all the recording of the trials results. M&W MACK, TOTAL WORLD FRESH and NORTON FOLGATE MARKETING are leading plum marketing and producer organisations with many experienced plum grower members. They will arrange and assist in the conduct of the on-farm grower trials and will each employ a fruit technologist who will be responsible for the coordination of the these trials. SAINSBURY'S is one of the largest retailers of UK plums. The producer organisations on this project supply SAINSBURY'S who play a key role in product development and promotion. Sainsbury's will provide quality assessment of varieties through their weekly benchmarking tests and through consumer taste panelling at Chipping Camden alongside flavour profiling of plums.
Impact Owing to the confidential nature of the project, outcomes have not yet been made public at this early stage of the project. The project aims to develop improved methods for UK plum production. Grower members of the marketing and producer organisations involved in the project comprise a large (>50%) proportion of the current UK retail plum industry and Sainsbury's is one the UKs largest retailers of stone fruit. These businesses wish the project to benefit their grower members and businesses primarily. To this end, the knowledge from the project will be kept confidential to the project partners during the life of the project and will only be more widely disseminated to UK growers and industry beyond the life of the project. The collaboration agreement signed by all partners requires prior approval of all project partners before information is disclosed to third parties. We will be particularly careful to exclude knowledge from growers or agronomists from other (competing) plum producing countries.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Plum intensification Q1 consortium meeting 8 May 15 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Discussion of plum tree architecture, rootstock, protection, thinning, nutrition and agronomy field experiments to improve productivity. Demonstration of hand held mechanical blossom thinning.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Plum intensification Q2 consortium meeting 20 Jul 15 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Tree architecture, rootstocks, scion varieties, crop thinning, nutrition of plum orchards to improve productivity and profitability
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Plum intensification Q3 consortium meeting 16 Nov 15 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Results of year 1 experimental investigations of tree architecture, protection, rootstocks, variety, thinning, nutrition on the performance of plum orchards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Plum intensification project launch meeting 16 Mar 15 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact First meeting of project participants to plan work on project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015