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    Harper Adams features on BBC Countryfile

    Posted 8 August 2011

    How do we look after our future food security? Should we be growing more of our own food here in the UK?"

    Professor Peter Kettlewell. Image from BBC iPlayer.

    Crop protection research conducted at Harper Adams University College featured on last night’s episode of Countryfile on BBC1.

    The production team visited Harper Adams last month to film research staff for a feature on food security, which was broadcast yesterday, Sunday August 7.

    Peter Kettlewell, Professor of Crop Physiology, outlined his work on water-proofing wheat crops to presenter John Craven. 

    Professor Kettlewell and his team at the University College, including PHD student Minuka Weerasinghe, are hoping to protect wheat crops from drought damage by using special compounds that reduce water loss.

    All plants lose water from their leaves and if this is more than what is available in the soil, growth is reduced. Antitranspirants decrease this water loss and act as ‘waterproofing.’

    These are commonly sprayed onto Christmas trees to reduce water loss and needle drop but are not currently used in crop protection.

    Professor Kettlewell has been investigating this subject since 1996. He said: “Research into antitranspirants first began in the 1960s… We started looking at these methods with an honours project and it has been on-going since. It’s been proven that prior to wheat crops entering the flowering stage, water shortage has a major effect on the yield. If antitranspirants, which wear off after a few weeks, are sprayed onto the crops at this point, the reduction in photosynthesis matters less and water is saved at the most critical time.”

    The Harper Adams research was shown as part of a “John Craven Investigates” feature on the issue of food security.

    The programme makers said: “As a young boy, John’s sweets were still being rationed well into the 1950s, after the Second World War caused a major food shortage in the UK. These days the biggest concern about British ‘food security’ isn’t running out. Instead John discovers that predictions of a world food crisis in the future could have a major impact on the price of what we eat. So, how do we look after our future food security? Should we be growing more of our own food here in the UK? John finds out.”

    Countryfile has commissioned a national poll to find out more what you think about some of the biggest issues affecting the future of food and farming in Britain. For this week’s programme, viewers wree asked the following question about food imports: The UK currently imports 40% of the food we eat. Do you think we should produce more of our own food, or not?

    88% said yes, we are too reliant on other countries for the food we eat.

    11% said no, being part of a global economy helps control the prices and the supply of food.

    1% didn’t know.

    The poll was carried out by ComRes on behalf of the BBC. They contacted 1004 people across Great Britain by telephone over a three day period in July

    To view the Countryfile episode on the BBC iPlayer click here

    More information about the research conducted at Harper Adams can be viewed here.

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