11 June 2001
Tesco to fund organic research

By Nigel Burnham

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco is to set up what is believed to be the biggest research programme of its kind into organic farming at Newcastle University.

The research centre will improve UK organic farming production and see large tracts of farmland set aside for research across the country.

Tesco, which is to give the university 500,000, says it hopes the centre will become the worlds leading research centre for research into organic food.

The Newcastle team will be led by Professor Carlo Leifert, one of the worlds leading authorities on organic food production.

He has been asked to find new ways to combat the weeds, pests and diseases which conventional growers eliminate with chemicals.

Researchers will focus on large-scale potato and carrot production, procedures to improve shelf life, disease management, and animal production and welfare.

Peter Fry, director of Tescos organic produce, predicted that the research would help the UK become a front-runner in organic production worldwide.

“The studies which our team of scientists at Newcastle are currently involved in are already bearing fruit”, he said.

Other areas of research at Newcastle will include crop breeding, organic fertilisation, and new methods of sterilising and composting soil.

Mr Fry said new technology would be at the cutting edge of food production.

“It mirrors a similarly dedicated scientific approach which helped to create the huge boom in conventional food production after WWII,” he said.

“Discovering the secrets of successful large-scale organic crop production is one of the most important goals facing British farming today.”

Last year, sales of organic products in the UK jumped by 60%, with the market now worth 460m from virtually nothing five years ago.

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