Agri-food research firm Fera Science has announced two new collaborative Enigma projects, following success with the company’s first programme looking at wireworm in potato crops.
Enigma II aims to tackle tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV), which has been found in every major region in northern Europe and has overcome various resistances. “There are resistant varieties coming to market,” said Adrian Fox, principal scientist on the Enigma II project and lead plant virologist at Fera. “However, in the time it takes to send samples for lab testing, the virus can devastate crops, with around 30% of crops being impacted on average, with colloquial evidence suggesting up to 100% crop losses in some cases.”
The project will therefore look at putting testing equipment in the hands of farmers, enabling on-the-spot diagnosis of crops to avoid delays at an on-farm level. “There will be a cost to these testing kits, but one that will be easily justified if it saves the crop,” Mr Fox explained.
Additionally, the project will look at implementing surveillance at every stage of the supply chain, from seed propagation through to irrigation. Fera will also monitor new varieties and develop guidance for those marketed as highly tolerant to ToBRFV.
Also announced was the Enigma III project, which will look to develop food safety guidance for the vertical farming sector, backed by the Food Safety Research Network and run in partnership with the Fresh Produce Consortium. It aims to produce scientifically validated guidance for growers by early 2024 which can be consistently applied.
Projects director Adam Bedford said: “We recognise the increased role that vertical and controlled environment farming will play in sustainable food production and will work hand-in-hand with growers to shape actionable guidance.”
He concluded: “We encourage any organisations growing tomato crops and/or fresh produce in a controlled environment to register their interest in collaborating on our Enigma II and III projects as soon as possible”
More information is available at www.fera.co.uk