Strawberry farmers could improve their income by nearly £400,000 over three years with new water-saving technology developed in Kent. Research by scientists at NIAB EMR – formerly known as the East Malling Research Centre – has produced a moisture control system which could improve crop yields.
It reduces water, fertilisers, pesticides and energy used by 20%, making a £2,400 saving per hectare each year for strawberry growers.
More than 20 commercial trails of the system – dubbed the precision irrigation package – also improved yields of class 1 fruit by 10% because it eliminated water shortages.
This is thought to be worth around £10,600 per hectare per year for a typical grower – equating to an increase in net income of about £396,000 over three years for a farmer with 20 hectares when factoring in savings and assuming yields improve by 5%.
The research was carried out at the new Water Efficient Technologies Centre at NIAB EMR, which was officially opened by Environment Minister George Eustice at the Fruit Focus exhibition at the site last week.
Commercial partners including Berry Gardens in Linton, near Maidstone, have helped develop the system, alongside support from the likes of South East Water and Kent County Council.
NIAB EMR managing director Professor Mario Caccamo
Professor Mario Caccamo, managing director of NIAB EMR, said: “The WET Centre represents the future of soft fruit production.
“It brings together applied research, IT and data management, and growers who want to adopt new technologies in order to improve the consistency and quality of what they produce.
“Initially, the focus of the WET Centre will be on soft fruit, but the technology has the potential to improve irrigation performance for other crops in the future.”
source: Kent Online