What my Nuffield is about

The title of my project “Where next for soft fruit in the UK? Addressing the yield gap and providing a path to 500 t/ha” sets out an ambitious target for the soft fruit industry.

The general issues that I am addressing in this study revolve around how to improve efficiency, productivity and sustainability in the face of increasing uncertainty (political, environmental, economic) in the soft fruit industry using a combination of cutting edge genetics and agronomy.

Despite the rejuvenation of the soft fruit industry in the UK and its currently impressive performance, Brexit is hastening the manifestation of some of the key issues across this sector of horticulture and therefore innovation is vital for the maintenance of competitive advantage.  Principally these issues revolve around the availability of labour and the cost of production, though other drivers such as invasive pests and diseases, more variable weather conditions and volatility in the supply chain are also placing severe pressure on profitability.

There remains a significant gap between the production of scientific knowledge and its deployment on farm, despite the clear promise genetics offers in boosting yield, harvesting efficiency and therefore competitiveness.

I would like to quantify the benefits on farm of some of the key developments in research and technology, estimate the actual cost of deployment on farm and identify the barriers to the technology being adopted and potential solutions. In doing so this work will provide a roadmap for innovation for the next ten years.

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