Expert Fruit Agronomist and Nufarm UK Consultant, Peter Newman, was on hand at the National Fruit Show to answer growers’ questions about crop protection and hear their hopes and fears for the industry. This is what he found …
The topics discussed at this year’s National Fruit Show were as numerous as the varieties of English apples and pears on display at the event.
Manning the Nufarm exhibition stand, I was able to field growers’ questions on crop protection and a host of other issues and listen to their hopes and fears for the industry as we race towards 2019.
On paper, the UK’s fruit industry has a rosy sheen as the value of fruit grown in Britain last year was up £60m compared to 2016.
But with continued political unrest, the storm clouds may yet gather over the UK’s fruit orchards, bringing with them a deluge of new problems, from legislative changes to a dearth of suitable labour.
The latter point was uppermost in people’s minds when the word ‘Brexit’ was uttered. It will come as news to no-one that fruit farming is a labour-intensive sector and come picking time, growers are reliant on a good quality, seasonal, imported workforce, mainly from Eastern Europe.
As we approach March 29, 2019 – the day we officially leave the EU – this issue will continue to worry the sector until a workable solution is found. But with a comprehensive deal not yet on the table, many growers expressed concerns the problem wouldn’t be sorted in time for next year’s picking season.
Although there was some optimism a solution can be found – simply because it must be – the general view was short term unrest could have unforeseen consequences for the industry, and everything must be done to prevent that. Watch this space.
Unsurprisingly, as always happens when growers gather together, the conversation around the Nufarm stand soon turned to the weather. But surprisingly given the summer just past, it was here some consolation could be found.
The infamous drought of 2018 had brought with it a trepidation among UK apple growers that their crops would suffer. But almost every apple grower I spoke to said the rains had come just in time, saving their precious produce. In fact, the UK apple harvest exceeded expectations in both yield and quality for most varieties, which was a great result considering the seemingly endless dry spell.
Apple and pear yields, and weather conditions, were the roots of another interesting discussion I had, and this one a bit closer to home.
This year, with excellent cooperation from a number of leading growers and advisors, I have been running a number of trials with Nufarm’s new growth regulator Promalin, comparing it to growers’ existing commercial programmes. Although the growing conditions this season were never going to be favourable for a big response to the product, those involved with the trials (10 in all, on a range of varieties, seven apple and three pear) reported they were impressed with the product which had performed at least as well as, or in some cases better, than their existing commercial programme.
Fantastic Two Days
It was great to catch up with a range of contacts and friends over what was a fantastic two days. Some of the most valuable feedback I got was how good it was to see some manufacturers exhibiting at the show and providing tangible support to the UK fruit industry.
We were one of just four manufacturers that exhibited, and we believe our presence enables growers to have conversations from a different perspective to those they have with distributors and other companies supplying into the sector. In doing so, we hope they gain a deeper understanding of our processes and the products they are using to protect their valuable crops.
It also helps us to understand their challenges, which informs our own product development process.
It is for these reasons Nufarm UK feels it is important to support events like the National Fruit Show, and to continue supporting the fantastic work done by the UK’s fruit growers.
We look forward to catching up again at next year’s event!