Good Fruit Grower

December 2013

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East Malling Research turns 100 this year East Malling, famed for its rootstock research, has adapted to the changing landscape of research need and opportunity. PHOTO COURTESY OF EAST MALLING RESEARCH by Ursula Tworney, East Malling Research East Malling's story began March 1, 1913, when the first nine hectares of land were purchased to undertake "the study of problems met with in the actual culture of fruit trees and bushes." Miss Gilman records tree growth and relays the results on a portable telephone in 1926. ruit growers around the world are familiar with the name East Malling Research, a small experimental organization based in a quiet village in the southeast of England. Growers have benefited from the rootstock research conducted here from its infancy, which has made commercial production of tree fruits, particularly apples and pears, more efficient. However, East Malling's proud heritage and legacy has encompassed more than just rootstock development and more than just apples and pears. It has extended to many perennial tree and fruit crops, to all areas of production, and from the commercial grower to the amateur gardener. The company owes its existence to the foresight of the academics and growers who, 100 years ago, recognized the essential role that research would play in sustaining and advancing fruit growing. In fact, most national statistics show that tree fruit production has tripled or even quadrupled over the last 100 years, with even higher increases for some soft fruits. East Malling's story started on March 1, 1913, when the first nine hectares (22 acres) of land were purchased to undertake "the study of problems met with in the actual culture of fruit trees and bushes." It had one laboratory, one office, and two permanent members of staff. Today, East Malling Research sits on 200 hectares (500 acres) of land and has about 80 staff members, of whom about half are scientists. Early results were extremely promising, and despite the modesty of the enterprise, industry was getting the information it needed, and it wanted more. Dissemination of results was driven by the second director, Ronald Hatton, who travelled the world spreading the news of East Malling's work and who encouraged his scientists to reach out and to collaborate as much as possible. The site steadily expanded over the next 30 years; new laboratory F 30 DECEMBER 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER buildings were built on the growing land holdings, and many more scientists joined the expanding organization. Rootstocks One of East Malling's first and most important successes was the collection and typing of apple rootstocks and the propagation and release of selections with defined effects on precocity and vigor. The Malling (M) series was followed by the Malling Merton (MM) series, bred jointly with the John Innes Institute for resistance to woolly apple aphid. These rootstocks are used in virtually every part of the world where apples are grown commercially. Further rootstocks were selected for pear (Quince A, Quince C), plum (Myrobalan B, Brompton, St Julian A, Pixy), and cherry (Colt, Cob, Charger). Growth and physiology of roots was studied extensively to determine the role of roots in water absorption, association with mycorrhizae, impact of soil management, planting density, irrigation, cropping levels, and below-ground production, now of value in assessing effects of climate change. Practical plant husbandry studies laid the foundation for modern orchard systems. Important advances were made in understanding and manipulating plant hormones that have a crucial influence on responses to stress conditions, root growth, flowering, and fruit formation and ripening. This facilitated the development of auxin sprays to delay preharvest drop of fruit and chemical control of tree growth to optimize cropping potential. CA storage East Malling collaborated with, then continued the work started at the Ditton Laboratory, leading to the development of controlled atmosphere

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