More than 100 industry specialists, researchers and staff – past and present – gathered at Warwick’s Wellesbourne campus to mark 70 years of crop research on the site.
Invited keynote speaker and expert in food policy, Professor Tim Lang, spoke about the importance of vegetables in the UK and Sue Kennedy from Elsoms Seeds gave a commercial perspective on vegetable genetics and breeding.
Professor Tim Lang said: “Horticulture could and should be good news for the UK at a time when issues like food security and climate change should be making people think more about their food choices. Places like the Crop Centre at Warwick are valuable resources which could help the UK lead on increasing vegetable production.”
Professor Rosemary Collier, an entomologist and one of the lead researchers at Warwick Crop Centre, said: “Over the last 70 years research at Wellesbourne has produced large numbers of scientific advances which have helped combat agricultural pests and diseases, made crops more resilient to UK growing conditions and have improved the quality of vegetable varieties for consumers.
“We are now tackling new issues brought about by climate change. Increases in temperature and the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events are bringing with them more challenging growing conditions and farmers are already experiencing greater difficulty in managing their crops and tackling pests and diseases, including influxes of new species. We need scientific research to help to continue to deliver reliable food supplies.
“Consumers are also becoming more engaged with their dietary choices and the demand for plant products is rising. Research on vegetables has the potential to develop new food plants for the UK market as well as leading to varieties which are resistant to pests and diseases or better adapted to low input production systems, thereby reducing the need for inputs like pesticides and fertilisers.”
The research station at Wellesbourne was established after World War II with the aim of researching and establishing better and more efficient methods of vegetable production in the UK.
Professor Lorenzo Frigerio, Head of the School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, said: “Scientists at this specialist research facility at Wellesbourne have been delivering world-class, industry-changing applied science for the past 70 years and there is no doubt that the UK needs and recognises the value of this type of work.
“The University of Warwick continues to drive forward pioneering research into some of the UK’s most valuable vegetable crops and also to look for new opportunities in markets which are interesting for the UK’s growers and consumers.”