Researchers from Harper Adams University are part of two projects, worth almost £2m, that aim to improve the quality of fresh produce. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), collaborating with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), have awarded more than £4m of research funding to six projects that will improve the sustainability of commercially valuable crops. This funding is the second round of awards from the Horticulture and Potato Initiative (HAPI), which was developed by the BBSRC with NERC and the Scottish Government to support high quality, industrially relevant research projects.
Harper Adams Professor of Crop Improvement, David Pink, is leading a project which aims to investigate post-harvest discolouration in lettuce and to see if the results also apply to other fresh produce such as apple and cabbage. Working with colleagues at Harper Adams and the universities of Reading and Warwick, and industry partners from across the supply chain, the collaboration has collectively received more than £1m in funding from HAPI, of which Professor Pink has been awarded more than £320k.
Professor Pink said: “Post-harvest discolouration is a significant cause of quality loss. We are collaborating with industry partners to identify the genes involved in the discolouration of lettuce leaves and how they behave under different growing conditions. Once identified, we will look at which lettuces show differences in discolouration and measure their taste, as well as their resistance to aphids and mildew. This will then be applied to other crops such as apple and cabbage. We are delighted to be part of this collaboration with other leading research institutions and industry, which contributes to the wider aim of improving the sustainability of commercially viable crops.”
Also receiving funding from the HAPI project is Harper Adams Reader in Crop Improvement, Dr Paul Hand. Dr Hand has been awarded around £240k for a HAPI project led by the University of Warwick which also involves partners from industry. The project, worth £880k in total, is looking at disease resistance against fungal pathogens in horticultural crops such as lettuce.
Dr Hand said: “This project looks at developing a new approach to breeding for resistance to fungal pathogens that reduces the need for chemical sprays. By applying genomic and systems biology, we hope to identify ‘hub’ genes that co-ordinate the plant response to important fungal pathogens. This will then form the basis of developing similar resistance in other horticultural crops.”