Research and Development

Q1.      When and why was the Cheshunt Research Station set up?

A1.      British tomato growers have always been at the forefront of horticultural research. As long ago as 1914, glasshouse growers set up the Cheshunt Research Station in the Lea Valley, north of London, to tackle the technical problems then faced by the industry. 

Q2.      On average how much is spent on the research of tomato production in the UK each year?

A2.      Some 1.25 million a year is currently spent on research on tomato production in the UK, with growers directly funding the more applied, 'near market' research by levies paid on their turnover through the Horticultural Development Council.

Q3.      What is being done to improve fruit quality in respect of flavour, texture, appearance and shelf-life?

A3.      This is being achieved by the development of new varieties and fruit types, improved systems on handling fruit and grading after harvest, to allow fruit to ripen on the vine, and understanding more about the basic biology of plant growth and fruit development. Consumer research is being undertaken to define buying patterns and consumer expectations to ensure the industry meets the demands of today's market.

Q4.      How do we maintain the status of lowest cost producers for British growers in the face of pressure from subsidised imports, especially from southern Europe?

A4.      The aim is to improve production efficiency by increasing yields, whilst reducing inputs. British growers have been very successful in this respect.  Average production per acre has doubled in the past 25 years, whilst the use of glasshouse heating fuel has been reduced by one third, and labour hours by two thirds, for each box of tomatoes produced.  This, however, is dependent on substantial investment in new glasshouses and facilities.

Q5.      How do British growers achieve pest and disease control without pesticides?

A5.      Britain leads the world in biological pest control, employing natural predators to control pests such as leaf miners and red spider mites.  This ensures an environmentally friendly industry with added consumer protection.  Natural control methods represent the most effective and profitable solution.  An armoury of natural enemies is now available from specialist rearing companies, and growers have become skilled in these advanced techniques, following research on the best ways to use them.  British growers have a published target of eliminating the use of all pesticides on their crops an increasing area of organic tomato crops is also being produced here.

Q6.      What are other means of disease control?

            Other means of disease control are also being developed such as sand filtration systems to recycle water.


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