Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Category: Standard Studentships

Environmental and intra/interspecific approaches to nutrient security – Fruit for the UK’s food security

Project No. – 2006

Primary Supervisor

Dr Eleftheria Stavridou – NIAB EMR


Dr Andrew Simkin – NIAB EMR

Prof Guy Poppy – University of Southampton

Dr Jenny Baverstock – University of Southampton


Policies and regulations that directly or indirectly affect the supply or prices of food products, their safety and nutritional composition influence the food choices consumers make and, ultimately, the nutritional quality of their diets.

International trade has been critical in providing UK consumers with fruit and vegetable. Different trade scenarios have been developed to assess the impact on the balance of UK and non-UK sourcing of agricultural food commodities and the nutrient intake. However, the estimates of nutrient intakes are calculated using nutrient composition datasheets which are seldom accurate. Among the factors that may alter the nutrient composition of a food are: i) variation among cultivars in nutrient contents, ii) local agronomic factors and weather conditions that affect growth rate and yield, iii) agronomic practices.

To accommodate these sources of error, it is common to discount the values in the databases by 10-25%, however, such modest discounts may still overestimate nutrient intakes. This project will investigate the nutritional gaps in UK fruit and vegetables and the key nutritional challenges influencing nutrient intakes. Strawberries, the fifth most consumed fruit, will be used as a model crop.

The project aims are to:
• investigate genetic variability. The variability will be determined not only on commercial cultivars but as well on mapping populations. The results will help to assist breeders in selecting nutrient-dense cultivars.
• determine the differences between locally produced and imported strawberries, which will affect the seasonal nutrient intake. For instance, vitamin C content of fruit is often found to decrease upon storage and transportation.
• determine the effect of agronomic practices nutrient content. Controlled environment experiments and a survey across commercial production sites will be carried out.
• understand the vulnerabilities in nutrient levels in the UK (identified via trade analysis statistics – paper in preparation) and UK food security in relation to the different levels of micronutrients identified.