Polytunnels, growing areas enclosed by plastic film cladding, have transformed the production of many crops in the UK and around the world, by reducing losses from poor weather, pests, and diseases. These polytunnels have supported the increased production, yield and quality of strawberries, have extended the growing season from 6 weeks to 8 months, and allowed growers to use biological control agents for pest and disease control.
There are around 7,990 ha of polytunnels in the UK, with over 90% being used for growing strawberries. However, the plastic films currently in use are not optimised for plant performance.
This Ceres project is creating novel polytunnel films to improve crop growth. A major benefit will be increased yield: just a 5% increase in strawberry yield would generate an additional 3 tonnes of fruit per hectare, worth an extra £25m per annum for the UK soft fruit industry.
This novel film technology will increase yields of many other high value horticultural crops in the UK and further afield, helping to increase food production and food security for the world’s growing population. Ultimately, it will help to improve food availability and security as well as reducing food waste through better crop utilisation.