As part of its centenary celebrations, East Malling Research has been awarded a prestigious Silver Gilt Flora medal by the Royal Horticulture Society at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, which is also enjoying its 100th anniversary.
The Fruit of the Tree exhibit was sponsored by East Malling Trust, the UK’s largest independent funder of horticultural research. The exhibit celebrates the role that East Malling Research (EMR) in improving the global productivity of fruit trees, and the importance of scientific study to securing a sustainable food chain.
At the centre of the EMR’s presence at the Chelsea Flower Show is a fully-grown, excavated apple tree displaying all its root system to visitors of the Grand Pavilion. The exhibit celebrates 100 years of research at EMR and demonstrates the role that rootstocks play in controlling the size and improving the productivity of fruit trees.
Commenting on the medal, Chairman of East Malling Trust, Will Sibley said: “The scientific work undertaken over the last century at EMR, and in particular its work on root stocks, has transformed the productivity of the world’s fruit industry.
“Given that EMR and Chelsea were both celebrating their centenaries it was only right that we should highlight the vital role that science plays in the health of our food chain to such an esteemed audience.”
“At a time when we need to make the public more aware of the role scientific research plays in the food they eat, what better way to demonstrate the positive connection than by showing them how an apple tree actually functions.”
EMR’s rootstocks research transformed the way that fruit trees are grown in gardens and commercial orchards around the world. The M9 and M26 rootstocks, which produce semi-dwarf trees, are two of the most widely grown rootstocks in the world.
During the show, EMR’s Chief Executive, Professor Peter Gregory announced the award of a major grant from the government’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The grant will fund the continued root research by using EMR’s unique underground laboratory, which will now be re-equipped to study root growth of modern apple trees and the flow of carbon into the soils.
Professor Peter Gregory said: “We are delighted to have won such a prestigious medal at Chelsea and to be able to show gardeners how our research has brought them practical benefits. There is a great deal of important science needed, such as the work that will be funded by BBSRC, if we are to address the country’s future food security.”
The Fruit of the Tree exhibit features research using modern instrumentation tocontrol water and nutrient use by trees. The display also highlights the origins of wild apple (Malus) species in central Asia and poses some questions about possible returns to that region in search of further beneficial genes in the apple species growing there.
EMR’s exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show was visited by Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Defra; Lord Heseltine, and celebrity visitors, and also hosted a reception by Smiths Gore, the leading rural land and property advisers.