Several of the research groups in the School of Life Sciences work closely with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). Farmers, growers and others in the supply chain fund the work of the AHDB through statutory levies and it delivers projects to drive productivity and boost farming and supply chain businesses, addressing all agricultural sectors. The AHDB's Head Office is at Stoneleigh Park. Those of us based at the Wellesbourne Campus work most closely with the horticulture sector and in particular those who produce vegetables and salads for UK consumers.
As you will be aware, growers are working very hard at the moment to keep us supplied with fresh produce and they have a number of significant challenges – one of which is getting enough labour to harvest the crops. The UK fresh produce sector relies on a significant workforce from outside the UK to work on farms, and in processing, and it is very difficult this year for their overseas workforce to travel to the UK. For example, G’s, one of the companies with whom we work, is advertising for UK-based staff to help ‘Feed our Nation’. There are also national schemes such as ‘Feed the Nation’ and a potential ‘Pick for Britain’ campaign. There are some interesting interviews about the situation in the 4th April edition of Radio 4’s ‘Farming Today This Week’.
UK growers still need all the support that we can give them. Rosemary Collier in the School of Life Sciences provides information for vegetable and salad growers about the pest insects that may invade their crops. Such information allows them to protect their crops in a timely fashion. The information is made available to growers through the AHDB Pest Bulletin and the AHDB Pest Blog. The Pest Bulletin for 2020 has just been launched. This activity is funded by the AHDB and by Syngenta UK and the Pest Bulletin is hosted on the Syngenta UK web site. Coronavirus will undoubtedly affect some of the information that we can provide for growers but we still provide them with a good amount of up-to-date information. Both web sites are available to all, so they may be interesting reading for some vegetable gardeners.