BBC Interview: Prof David Pink on UK horticulture
2 March 2012
The UK horticulture industry needs to improve its image in order to attract new entrants into the fruit and vegetable growing business, according to Harper Adams University College Professor David Pink, who was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today this morning.
Professor Pink was responding to comments by food policy Professor Tim Lang, who told Farming Today presenter Anna Hill that fruit and vegetable production – horticulture – in the UK was a “disgrace”.
Professor Lang said: “The number one priority for me is growing plants. We tend to export alcohol, meat and dairy, when actually it is plants we need to grow, Plants are the foundation of human health…but our horticulture industry is a disgrace.
“We need to be rapidly expanding it and rethinking how much horticulture we have, and the skills that are necessary for the jobs we could be creating.”
Part of the problem, said Professor Pink, Professor of Crop Improvement at Harper Adams, is that horticulture has a bad image.
“People associate the word horticulture with gardening, whereas in the UK we have some of the largest fruit and vegetable growers in Europe. These are international businesses, growing in the UK, Europe and North Africa and it’s actually quite a sophisticated business.”
Responding to suggestions that students are simply “not interested” in horticulture, Professor Pink added: “Reading University closed it horticulture degree a couple of years ago because of a lack of students. Here at Harper Adams, all of our students go out on a year’s placement, and those students who go out to placement in horticulture growing businesses come back amazed. To quote one student who came back last year, he said ‘I’m never going to grow a wheat crop again, wheat is boring!’.”
Quizzed as to why the UK needs to grow more of its own fruit and vegetables Professor Pink said: “A lot of people will think we can just buy it in, but one of the hot topics of conversation is global food security and most of the time, when talking about food security, they are talking about staple crops, wheat, maize and the carbohydrate crops that provide us with calories. But in terms of having a secure, healthy diet, fruit and vegetables are going to be incredibly important, and as I said, we can grow fruit and veg in this country and we ought to be maximising our output of the crops that we can grow well.”
The story is available to listen to on the BBC iPlayer for the next seven days, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01cks45/