Spalding-based seed specialist Elsoms has teamed up with CHAP (Crop Health & Protection) to investigate how the latest developments in plant breeding could combine with new production techniques for strawberries to reduce food miles.
Elsoms is working with the Natural Light Growing Centre (NLG) – a facility run by partners CHAP (Crop Health & Protection) and RIPE at the University of Warwick Life Sciences. The commercial-scale greenhouse at NLG is clad in ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), which unlike glass transmits full spectrum sunlight including UVA and UVB into the growing area.
Elsoms Technical Coordinator, Claire Taylor, explained, “We launched three strawberry varieties earlier this year, one of which was Estavana. These are bred by Dutch F1-hybrid strawberry specialists, ABZ Seeds, then propagated in the UK for the commercial market. As plants are supplied disease-free, this offers strong commercial benefits for growers and with this in mind, we wanted to look at how else we could build on that, to help to improve the resilience of the UK supply chain.”
Estavana grows well in the environment at NLG suggesting that access to the whole light spectrum has benefits for crop health and fruit quality. “We have a limited strawberry season in the UK, so the concept of extending this by combining strong plant breeding with an innovative growing environment is really quite exciting,” continued Claire. “To explore this further, we’d like to look at one of our other varieties, Soraya, as this can offer a winter harvest given the correct conditions. Of course, we’d also need to consider the role of additional energy-efficient LED lighting to make this possible, but ETFE provides an excellent start.”