2021 is the United Nations’ International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, bringing public attention to the key role of fruit and vegetables in human nutrition, food security and health – all key strands of work at the James Hutton Institute.

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals and beneficial phytochemicals. FAO and the World Health Organization recommend that each adult consumes at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis to prevent chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, as well as to counter micronutrient deficiencies.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to transform and rebalance the way our food is produced and consumed has only been further stressed, and food waste remains a key concern. Food loss and waste reduction improves food security and nutrition, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, lowers pressure on water and land resources and can increase productivity and economic growth.

Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, said: “The UK’s knowledge economy is the driver of massive economic and social benefits, and the Institute is at the forefront of making positive, direct contributions to inform policies and actions in many areas, including research to develop resilient, productive crop varieties to help us reach the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Products developed at the James Hutton Institute and its forebears are familiar names on supermarket shelves. They include popular raspberry varieties such as Glen Ample and Glen Lyon; potato varieties including Lady Balfour, Anya, Vales Sovereign, Vales Emerald and Mayan Gold; our brassicas dominate the UK market and fifty per cent of the world’s blackcurrant crop was developed by scientists in Dundee.

The Institute’s Cell and Molecular Sciences group comprises more than 100 plant scientists with research specialisms in cell and molecular biology, genomics, genetics, pathology and physiology, with a major research focus is on the genetic improvement of crops with respect to yield and quality, resource use efficiency and pest and disease resistance. The Institute has also maintained a partnership with the University of Dundee since 2002, exploiting the complementarity of the organisations and generating considerable income in joint funding in areas of translation of basic to applied research.

The Institute’s Dundee site will also host the Advanced Plant Growth Centre, a new research facility at the very forefront of emerging technology designed to deliver increased commercial, economic and environmental benefits to the global food and drink sector, which has been backed by a £27m transformational investment from the Tay Cities Deal.

Investment in APGC will see Scotland lead the way and become a hub for the global development of indoor and vertical farming, and it is envisaged that the Tayside region could become central to an industry that will produce consistent, high-quality produce all-year-round across the globe.

Professor Campbell added: “The APGC will also see the development of new crop varieties and improve the quality and taste of existing crop species. In doing this we have the potential to better secure our food supply chains against climate change and lower the impact on the environment.”

Source: James Hutton Institute