Researchers at the University of Southampton worked together with Vitacress, one of the biggest producers of packaged salads, to understand what keeps salad leaves fresh. Their results are now being used in breeding programmes and within Vitacress’ own practices to produce salads with a longer shelf life, reducing waste and a providing a better product for consumers.
Professor Gail Taylor and colleagues from the University of Southampton, together with Vitacress, used an Industrial Partnership Award (IPA) from BBSRC to first identify what it was about certain salad leaves that gave them a longer shelf life. They found that smaller, tougher leaves, with lots of small cells packed closely together, lasted longer – growing salad crops with ‘processable’ leaves is extremely important for the packaged salad industry, because it reduces waste and increases shelf life.
|10%||Minimum cash contribution required from industrial partner towards an IPA project|
|20%||Approximate water saving employed as a result of this research|
|£130k||Investment by Sainsbury’s to continue Taylor and colleagues’ research with Vitacress|
The researchers then worked out which regions of the lettuce genome were responsible for these desirable characteristics. As a result of this research, the scientists have initiated a breeding programme in which crop breeders are selectively breeding plants with the genetic material responsible for leaves with a longer shelf life.
In the course of the project, the researchers also made the unexpected discovery that using less water when growing salad can improve its shelf life, which has added environmental benefits.
BBSRC’s Industrial Partnership Award (IPA) scheme supports collaborative research with industry. It is a means of encouraging scientists to consider and seek industrial partnership in their research grant proposals, and to ensure that an avenue for knowledge exchange exists for BBSRC-supported research.
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