The National Fruit Collection contains over 3,500 different varieties of apples, pears, cherries, plums etc. is owned by the UK Government Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and managed by the University of Reading (UoR) and the Fruit Advisory Services Team (Fast). The collection is located at Brogdale Farm, Faversham, Kent, where it was planted over 60 years ago having been moved from the RHS site at Wisley.
Between the 1950s and late 1980s the National Fruit Trials at Brogdale was one of the Government’s Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food’s Experimental Horticulture Stations, with responsibility for testing the suitability of a wide range of new fruit varieties for growing in the UK. With the closure of many of these EHS the task of maintaining the Collection at Brogdale passed to Imperial College (Wye) and the Brogdale Horticultural Trust, and in 2009, the contract to continue this work passed to the UoR. At that time the National Fruit Collections Trust took over the assets of the BHT and new trustees were appointed.
The NFC Trust aims to inform and educate the public about the Collections and to increase the utilisation of the Collections in such areas as:
- understanding genetic diversity of fruits
- investigating how varieties adapt to climate change
- describing the traits that could benefit professional growers and amateur gardeners
The Trust actively collaborates with the team curating and managing the Collections and works closely with Brogdale Collections, a charitable organisation that provides visitor access, educational programmes and festivals at Brogdale.
Our twice yearly newsletters keep our supporters up to date, and summer events bring supporters together at Brogdale to view aspects of the Collections and learn more about the work of the Trust.
In 2013 the Trust embarked on an ambitious project to undertake a scientific study of how future climate change scenarios could impact the apple collection and to study the implications for all those interested in or relying on growing apples in the UK. In this project, the Climate Change Trial, 21 varieties from the collection were selected to reflect their genetic diversity and commercial importance. Varieties with diverse flowering and picking dates, growth habits and winter chill requirements were planted in a fully replicated trial layout. Once the trees were established 3 purpose built polythene houses with automated venting and watering were constructed over them to create different climatic conditions, simulating a 1-2oC, and a 2-3oC temperature rise. Within each temperature regime different levels of rainfall will be superimposed by collecting rainfall from the roof and redistributing it within the houses to provide some trees with a normal rainfall amount, some with 30% more and some with 30% less.
The different temperature and rainfall treatments will be imposed from autumn 2017 and it is planned to run the trial for 10 years. The study of the effects of the treatments will form a series of PhD theses. The funding for the first of these PhD studentships has already been secured.