Mushroom growers are preparing to expand as a revival takes hold.
The mushroom-growing sector is bucking the trend of many horticultural businesses and experiencing a revival across the UK. Planning applications for new farms and expansions read like a who's who in the industry and even a site that has long been mothballed is rising like a phoenix from the ashes.
Research The importance of research in the sector is debatably more crucial than ever with the upturn in the mushroom industry. The establishment of two leading experts at East Malling Research (EMR) in Kent, who moved from the now defunct Warwick Horticultural Resource Institute, has appeased many who feared for the long-term future of UK-based mushroom research and development. According to internationally-recognised experts Dr Kerry Burton and Professor Ralph Noble, the move has started a positive new era. Burton says: "EMR has a very positive 'can-do' atmosphere. It is great to be a part of." Teamed with Dr Helen Grogan of Kinsealy Research in Dublin, Ireland, Burton is now set to begin a studentship that aims to understand the biology of mushroom virus X and has high hopes of EU funding. EMR will be looking at new ways to improve mushroom quality and technology of packaging and ways to deal with spent mushroom compost, peat replacements and how to reduce the already small amount of pesticides used in the production of mushrooms. Noble, who joined EMR at the start of March, said there is promising research from the USA on bacterial blotch and dry bubble, and they will be looking at this in detail. Burton adds: "It's an exciting time for mushrooms. It's all happening. We are off to an international conference for mushrooms in France in October - the UK is back in there on the world stage and it feels nice." X