Research & Development
The 5 topics below have been identified as generic areas of Research & Development.
Pesticides & the move towards zero residue levels
At present information from the supply chain on the use of chemicals is annually collected by Waitrose, but it is not really used as a management tool.
The suggested way ahead with this is to use a simplified MPS accreditation scheme approach. The MPS scheme was developed in Holland. Each member lists annually the chemicals they use. Each of the chemicals is assigned a score based on its active ingredient. Higher scores are regarded as undesirable.
The aim is two fold, a) to see the annual score moving down, b) to see the higher scoring chemicals removed from the scheme.
In the case of the use of the system for the Waitrose supply base the aim would not only be to score the chemicals and have a moving target but to use this data to specifically identify where barriers to removal appear to exist. This would then allow targeted examination of the specific problem areas and allow specific R&D projects to be developed to solve the problem.
As a management tool it would also allow the supply chain and Waitrose the ability to assess which areas of supply can move more rapidly towards zero residues and this could be used as a marketing tool for the produce.
Water - Efficiency of Use
This is an area of work which LEC already have a number of specific projects in which they are involved in:
International work which Prof Bill Davies have been working on, e.g. grapes in Australia.
EU work that Bill Davies is working on involving the whole framework of water use within the EU.
Defra project HH3609TX - This is multidiscipline project covering crops such as potatoes through to Strawberries and involves various groups, LEC, Dundee, and EMR.
HortLINK project - new project HL0168, which is the development of previous projects. They have mainly focused on the HONS sector.
Calcium uptake and mapping work in plant tissue; Alistair Heatherington has been very successful in this area and has had project support from BBSRC.
Plastics & Reflectivity
This is very much a cross commodity issue at the present time, with press and media coverage becoming intense in specific areas.
For the supply base there are two issues:
the issue of the public acceptance of the use of plastics to cover crops and the visual effect of this.
the use of plastics to modify the spectra of light the crops receive and the effect then both on the morphology of the crop, the susceptibility to disease and the effect on pest life cycles.
Much of this work is being investigated at present either for specific crops- Reading Uni have been working on Soft fruit for a number of years, and Nigel Paul at LEC plus co-workers at STC have been working on a more generic screening of spectral filters across a range of crops. HDC have funded their first Post Graduate fellowship with Jason Moore working from LEC but based at STC specifically looking at some of the physiological effect of the altered spectra on crops.
As regards the issue of the reflectivity, 3M some years ago developed a non reflective plastic film, at the time this was work for the MOD and was extremely expensive. However this work requires revisiting.
Food Safety and Related Issues
This centres on the need to be fully aware of safety issues, nutritional and novel approaches to shelf life.
Currently LEC are developing a new course in 'Safety in primary production'. Once the details of this BBSRC sponsored Course are available then the information will be posted on the web site for all members to access.
There are other specific areas which the supply base has already noted as wishing to investigate: optimum nutritional inputs to achieve optimal nutrient output and yield, the effects of the transport chain, time in shelf life, and methods of improving freshness of products.
Organics - Yields and Consistency
This really relates to a no: of integrated factors, varieties, soil types, fertility indexes, accepted treatments to avoid pest & disease outbreaks.
There are at present a number of courses being run on 'Sustainable soil management' and it would be useful for the supply chain to have a TT day on the issue.
Additionally it is suggested that there is a need for a critical review of what are the production restrictions at present to clearly identify the areas of work needed.