Researchers at the University of Reading are working with colleagues in Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Spain on the production of zero-residue apples and strawberries. The produce is aimed at the baby food and specialist juice and flavourings markets.
The research, which is funded by EIT–Food, a body of the European Union, is trialling the use of bio-fungicides, beneficial insects and bio-stimulants from Koppert Biological Systems, in comparison with conventional fruit production. Growers, working with the researchers and Koppert advisors, are using a holistic approach combining integrated pest management and organic horticulture to prevent and control pests and diseases, whilst resulting in zero residues in the end food products.
Dr. Alice Mauchline, Head of the Reading team, said: ‘’The early results from the strawberry crops were promising, with the bio-control protocols proving to be effective in preventing pests and diseases. We are looking forward to seeing the results from the apple crops and to discussing this holistic approach with growers’’. The researchers will go on to measure the financial performance of the trial crops against the conventional controls, and post-harvest quality and health of the fruit assessed. Researchers will also gauge the acceptability and ease of use of the biological protocols by growers and the attitudes of consumers towards zero-residue fruit examined. In 2021, the project will be broadened to include more in-depth residue analysis and a sensory analysis of the processed fruit products carried out.
Further details about the research project are available here: https://www.eitfood.eu/innovation/projects/cleanfruit