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Evidence Project Final Report

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General Enquiries on the form should be made to:

Defra, Procurements and Commercial Function (Evidence Procurement Team)


Evidence Project Final Report


In line with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Defra aims to place the results of its completed research projects in the public domain wherever possible.

The Evidence Project Final Report is designed to capture the information on the results and outputs of Defra-funded research in a format that is easily publishable through the Defra website
An Evidence Project Final Report must be completed for all projects.

  • This form is in Word format and the boxes may be expanded, as appropriate.


The information collected on this form will be stored electronically and may be sent to any part of Defra, or to individual researchers or organisations outside Defra for the purposes of reviewing the project. Defra may also disclose the information to any outside organisation acting as an agent authorised by Defra to process final research reports on its behalf. Defra intends to publish this form on its website, unless there are strong reasons not to, which fully comply with exemptions under the Environmental Information Regulations or the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Defra may be required to release information, including personal data and commercial information, on request under the Environmental Information Regulations or the Freedom of Information Act 2000. However, Defra will not permit any unwarranted breach of confidentiality or act in contravention of its obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998. Defra or its appointed agents may use the name, address or other details on your form to contact you in connection with occasional customer research aimed at improving the processes through which Defra works with its contractors.

Project identification

1. Defra Project code


2. Project title

The Long Term Maintenance and Scientific Curation of the National Fruit Collection

3. Contractor

University of Reading

School of Agriculture, Policy and Development




54. Total Defra project costs

£ 2,475,195

(agreed fixed price)

5. Project: start date


end date


6. It is Defra’s intention to publish this form.

Please confirm your agreement to do so. YES  NO 

(a) When preparing Evidence Project Final Reports contractors should bear in mind that Defra intends that they be made public. They should be written in a clear and concise manner and represent a full account of the research project which someone not closely associated with the project can follow.

Defra recognises that in a small minority of cases there may be information, such as intellectual property or commercially confidential data, used in or generated by the research project, which should not be disclosed. In these cases, such information should be detailed in a separate annex (not to be published) so that the Evidence Project Final Report can be placed in the public domain. Where it is impossible to complete the Final Report without including references to any sensitive or confidential data, the information should be included and section (b) completed. NB: only in exceptional circumstances will Defra expect contractors to give a "No" answer.

In all cases, reasons for withholding information must be fully in line with exemptions under the Environmental Information Regulations or the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

(b) If you have answered NO, please explain why the Final report should not be released into public domain


Executive Summary

7. The executive summary must not exceed 2 sides in total of A4 and should be understandable to the intelligent non-scientist. It should cover the main objectives, methods and findings of the research, together with any other significant events and options for new work.

The National Fruit Collection (NFC) forms part of the UK’s collection of Plant Genetic Resources. As signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), the UK holds commitments to the conservation, the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from utilisation, and the making available of such genetic resources; the NFC Malus collection falls directly within the UK’s contribution to the Multilateral System of the ITPGRFA.

Under contract from Defra, the University of Reading was responsible for the maintenance and scientific curation of the collections at Brogdale from 1st April 2008 – 31st March 2014. Along with our project partners the Fruit Advisory Services Team, we assembled a team bringing together expertise in a wide range of areas including agronomy, crop genetic resource characterisation, molecular genetics, database management and cryopreservation.

The overall focus of the project was to increase both the security and utility of the collections as a genetic resource. This was achieved through the application of the latest agronomic and scientific techniques to the maintenance and curation program, and the following work was delivered under a number of project headings:

1. Maintenance and Housing

The Collections were maintained to a high standard throughout the full phase of the project. A unified approach to farm management was established from the outset to co-ordinate maintenance activity across the whole site. Annual plant health inspections were carried out by Fera, and additional inspections were carried out by the National Fruit Collection Advisory Committee (NFCAC) biannually. The repropagation of the apple collection was initiated and 133 new apple and cherry accessions were brought into the collection (principally from the East Malling genebanks). Policies for accession and deaccession as well as material supply were developed. Material was made available to a wide range of users. Meteorological records were continued.

2. Characterisation and Verification

Morphological verification of accessions against published descriptions further raised the level of scientific curation in the pear and bushfriut collections. Genetic analysis was carried out across the apple collection to study both randomly distributed genetic markers using Diversity Arrays Technology (DArT) as well as markers known to associate with specific fruit quality traits. Molecular fingerprinting was used in the verification of the new pear collection and techniques were transferred to the cobnut and cherry collections. Flowering records were continued and comparison with historical records showed in general that there has been advancement in time of first blossom, with flowering across the apple collection occurring 17 days earlier than in the early 1960’s. In the varieties investigated so far, there appears no adverse effect of the associated reduced winter chill on flowering. Additional phenological measures including time of ceasing extension growth and leaf fall were also investigated.

3. Records and Archives

A public access database was established ( Many datasets from both historical and current curational work were added to the database and made searchable. The database now contains a wide range of available data collected during the curational work and acts as the central repository for digital data on the collections. Progress was made to expand the database to present a more inclusive resource for listing material in the UK’s fruit genetic resource collections. Hard copy archives continued to be maintained and managed at Brogdale.

4. Long Term Security of the Collections

Efforts continued towards developing a cryopreserved back-up collection to add to the security of the primary field collections. Focus was placed on the apple collection since this is the largest collection and because techniques for cryopreservation were most developed in apple. The dormant bud system was utilised and initial testing work was carried out in line with previous work at the collections. Subsequently, the technique was used to create a safety back-up for the apple collection and by the end of the contract, the majority of the apple collection was backed up in cryopreserved state.

5. International Collaborations and Networking

The collections remained engaged in a number of relevant national and international networks throughout the time of the project. This included representing the collections within the UK Plant Genetic Resources Group, and the European Cooperative Program on Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR) as well as in more specific networks, such as those relating to cryopreservation under the EU COST program. The collections remained engaged with networks of wider relevance to the collections within the UK, including the RHS, Plant Heritage and traditional orchard networks. Data were shared and visitors to the collections were hosted from a wide range of countries and organisations.

6. Exploitation and Utilisation

The overarching aim of the curational and maintenance program centred around increasing the security and utility of the collections as a genetic resource. The collections were utilised as a source of genetic material and data on a range of levels, both within the UK and in an international context, for research, breeding and wider uses.

Project Report to Defra
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