Plant nurseries to save thousands of plants thanks to new test by Pershore College

Photo shows: Hayloft Plants, Pershore
Pershore College Hayloft[4]

Plant nurseries in Herefordshire and Worcestershire are set to save thousands of plants a year thanks to a new test from researchers at Pershore College.

The college has developed the tests in partnership with Bedfordshire-based biotechnology company Mologic, and are now being used both locally and internationally.

Hayloft Plants, based in Pershore, and Wyevale Nurseries, in Hereford, are two of the first producers to benefit from the new tests.

The antibody tests detect the early signs of Botrytis and help garden centres to reduce the spread of the disease to more plant stock.

Botrytis is a disease which attacks plants all year round, and is more commonly known as ‘grey mould’.

The development of the tests was funded through Innovate UK, and other partners include Berry Garden Growers and horticulture researchers at the horticultural and agricultural research institute NIAB EMR.

Hayloft Plants, set up in 1992, is based a short walk from Pershore College and have recently been trialling the tests.

Hayloft director Derek Jarman says that his nurseries are forced to throw away more than £100,000 worth of stock annually and the tests will hopefully significantly reduce that figure

Derek said: We sell an awful lot of different plants, from bedding to shrubs to house plants. We have issues with regard to Botrytis, and these tests give us an early indicator of what could go wrong.

Last year alone we had to throw away more than £100,000 worth of plant stock, and we hope the tests will make a massive difference to that figure and in turn our bottom line.

“Minor adjustments like this can make all the difference to a business of our size.

“The pandemic has been difficult for us, however through networking facilitated at Pershore College, we were awarded a sizeable grant which allowed us to build a new greenhouse and that facility has been essential to our survival over the last few months.”

Family-owned Wyevale Nurseries has been operating for 90 years and has engaged with Pershore College as a research partner on the project.

Production manager Kyle Ross, who is also Pershore College alumni, said it’s crucial that nurseries are able to stop the spread of Botrytis.

Kyle added: “We’ve been testing a huge range of crops, with different densities, different colours and plants at different stages at of their lifecycle.

“Over the course of a year nurseries such as ourselves can lose a lot of plants to Botrytis, so you have to overproduce to compensate for those losses.

“The rapid diagnosis kit is easy to use and allows us to locate areas of infection, and stop the spread, which will reduce wastage and save costs too.

“We have strong links with Pershore College and we’re pleased to be able to support the college and Mologic in researching the potential of these tests.”

Students who enrol on the Agri-Tech course at Pershore College will be given the opportunity to work with the tests, building them and trialling them on different types of crops to further expand their use in the horticulture industry.

Professor Roy Kennedy, who has led on the project for the college from the Agri-Tech Research Centre, commented: “We have been working in partnership with Mologic to validate these tests at our research centre, and the next stage is to explore how the industry uses them in practice.

“Hayloft and Wyevale are both already seeing the numerable benefits of the tests and the positive impact utilising them will have on business going forward.”

To find out more about Agri-Tech courses at Pershore College visit www.wcg.ac.uk/study and for more information on the tests go to www.botrytisalert.co.uk