New technology is being used to help blueberries thrive in Scotland, the Scottish Environment Secretary has announced.
The Scottish Government is funding research at the James Hutton Institute, by Dundee, aimed at using plant breeding technology to create blueberry plants more suited to the Scottish climate.
The government said blueberry production in Scotland grew by 10% in the past year and the research is hoped to further boost growth.
The fruit, hailed as a superfood, is native to North America and the US and Canada remain the world’s largest producers of the berry, followed by Poland, according to UN data for 2016.
Researchers at Aberdeen’s Rowett institute for Nutrition and Health have found drinking a concentrated berry extract significantly lowers glucose levels after eating which, if proven to work on a long term basis, may contribute to the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes – a condition which affects 300,000 people in Scotland.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Blueberries are an increasingly popular fruit in the UK. They are widely considered to have health benefits and of course they count as one of the five a day for fruit and veg.
“Traditionally blueberries are imported to Scotland but this innovative research we are funding is using new technology to develop plants that are more suitable for the Scottish soil and climate as well as helping us to fully understand the health benefits of this fruit.
“Scottish blueberry production is already on the increase and this should help boost local production of this fruit – which is better for the environment and also good news for our economy.”
Julie Graham of the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie said: “Cutting-edge plant breeding technology is enabling the James Hutton Institute to develop new blueberry cultivars.
“These cultivars, better suited to Scottish conditions, should enable an increase in the home-grown blueberry crop, which will be of benefit to Scottish soft fruit growers.
“Long term funding from the Scottish Government has been instrumental in supporting this research.”