WET Centre – High Performance Irrigation

RibbonCuttingReducing the amount of water needed to grow high quality full flavoured strawberries while at the same time optimising the yield of the crop is now achievable thanks to the work of the new Water Efficient Technologies (WET) Centre, developed at NIAB EMR.

The WET Centre, based at the centre for horticulture and perennial fruit crop research in Kent, has been designed to showcase the latest developments in irrigation management and moisture sensing technologies.

It was officially opened by Rt Hon George Eustice, Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) when he visited Fruit Focus, hosted by NIAB EMR at East Malling.

Professor Mario Caccamo, Managing Director of NIAB EMR, said: “The WET Centre represents the future of soft fruit production. It brings together applied research, IT and data management, and growers who want to adopt new technologies in order to improve the consistency and quality of what they produce.

“Initially, the focus of the WET Centre will be on soft fruit, but the technology has the potential to improve irrigation performance for other crops in the future.”

The first commercial application of the applied research undertaken at NIAB EMR is the Precision Irrigation Package (PIP) which provides fully automated irrigation to maintain moisture at precise levels to optimise water productivity, yields and berry quality.

The PIP system offers real-time monitoring of moisture levels and irrigation performance. It is backed up by a 24/7 alert system, remotely maintained and operated at NIAB EMR which can notify growers of any potential problems.

Commenting on the WET Centre, Dr Mark Else of NIAB EMR, said: “Growers need the confidence that they can accurately control the irrigation of their crops and avoid the impact that over or under-watering can have on the consistency of the fruit produced, in this case strawberries.”

The NIAB EMR research has gone from the laboratory to field trials and now into commercial scale demonstration. The trials showed that with less run-off and improved water use efficiency, there is less wastage of key inputs. Growers can typically reduce usage of water, fertilisers, pesticides and energy by 20 per cent, representing a saving for strawberry growers of £2,400 per hectare per year.

By eliminating unplanned water deficits, the trials have also shown that PIP can deliver higher yields compared with manual scheduling methods. Yields of Class 1 strawberries were up to 10 per cent higher with PIP, worth around £10,600 per hectare per year for a typical grower.

In more than 20 commercial trials undertaken in the last three years, yields and fruit quality with PIP have either matched or exceeded conventional irrigation in all cases.

Factoring in the cost savings, and assuming a five per cent improvement in yields, the WET Centre Partners estimate that the net financial benefit of using PIP for a grower producing 20 hectares of strawberries would be £6,600 per hectare per year, representing an increase in net income over three years of £396,000 for a typical strawberry grower.

The WET Centre has been developed by NIAB EMR in collaboration with a number of commercial partners, including Berry Gardens Growers, Delta T Devices, Netafim UK, New Leaf Irrigation and Cocogreen (UK), with further support from Meiosis, South East Water, Kent County Council and LEAF.

WET Centre Data


Identifying apple and other fruit varieties for the amateur gardener

Each year, as summer fades to autumn, enthusiastic gardeners often contact East Malling Research (EMR) with samples of apples, keen to know what variety they have growing in their garden. Perhaps they have moved house and ‘inherited’ a new tree … Continue reading


ARDERI – Apple Replant Disease Evolution and Rootstock Interaction

This page is currently under construction – further content coming soon. The UK’s apple producing and processing industry is currently growing due to a huge increase in cider consumption worth £3000M per year. Apples are the most important tree fruit … Continue reading


The Harrison Lab

Research in The Harrison Lab at EMR focuses on genetically complex crops such as strawberry, apple and broadleaf tree species and is directed towards understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling resistance to a range of plant pathogens. The group also seeks to understand the evolutionary … Continue reading


Sino-UK Strawberry Innovation R&D Centre

In March 2012, EMR signed an agreement with the Beijing Academy of Agriculture Forestry Sciences (BAAFS) to establish a joint research office on strawberry breeding and genetics.  The agreement was initially for three years but was extended for a further … Continue reading


EMR Apple Breeding Consortium

Overview A new EMR Apple Breeding Consortium, comprising of East Malling Services, Worldwide Fruit Ltd and ENZA, have initiated a new dessert apple breeding programme, based at East Malling, UK. Underpinned by pre-breeding expertise from the Harrison lab at EMR the programme … Continue reading


Resistance to powdery mildew in cultivated strawberry

EMR, Driscoll’s Genetics Ltd and Berry Gardens growers are working in an industry-led project to identify and characterise the genetic basis of strawberry powdery mildew resistance in the octoploid cultivated strawberry. Members of the Harrison lab and the strawberry breeding … Continue reading


Novel Food Crops

In recent years, UK fruit growers have made significant changes in their businesses in response to changes in government policy, increased competition from imports and increased costs driven by factors such as availability and cost of labour, availability of resources … Continue reading


East Malling Strawberry Breeding Club

The national programme for strawberry breeding has been based at East Malling since 1983.  The programme has been successful in releasing 39 varieties for all sectors of the strawberry industry since 1988, with over 250 million plants of these varieties … Continue reading


East Malling Rootstock Club

Top-fruit growers worldwide require improved rootstocks to maintain profitable and sustainable production.  Important factors for growers are dwarfing to reduce the cost of pruning and simplify picking, induction of precocious and reliable cropping, ease of propagation, freedom from suckers, good … Continue reading