As we enter April our thoughts turn to warmer months, longer days, shoots of summer and the horticultural season ahead. All a necessary distraction from the COVID lockdown period that we seem to be leaving behind. COVID and its variants might be with us for many years to come but we also have some immediate domestic and euro wide challenges for all aspects of horticulture.

Brexit – I felt we were stronger as a bloc of twenty-seven countries rather than being dislocated from Europe. I am privileged that I still get access to all EU Horticulture policy and thinking, but I see very few horticulture benefits (on a daily basis), from this decision to leave the European Union.

Plant Imports – this will continue to be a challenge and increasingly the movement of plants from the significant growing areas of BNL and Germany will continue to present logistical and administrative problems to growers. Customs agents, plant health, import duty and border control all add to the burden of trade, both ways. Hopefully EU companies will not get too disheartened and pull out of the UK market.

Labour – Irrespective what the Defra seasonal labour strategy is, when I travel on business throughout Europe, GB is perceived as a less attractive and welcoming country for young horticultural workers, post BREXIT. The Hook of Holland, Dunkirk and Calais will not be resounding to the footsteps of overseas workers until we display the ‘welcome sign’ loud and clear.

Peat – this carbon sink has been the subject of controversy for many years now and will be replaced by global wood fibre, Coco fibre from the Indian sub-continent and green waste from municipalities. In addition, much bog activity will move from the midlands of Ireland and the borders of Scotland to the vast peat lands of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Russia. This is the ‘realpolitik’.

Plastic Recycling & Polymers – two areas that effects the production of pots, substrate nutrition and the use of wetting agents. Recycling has significantly shifted the pot market while the persistence of polymers in soil have caused countries like France to restrict polymer containing products.

Fertiliser regulations – These new EU regulations will facilitate a new sector of bio fertilisers, increase controls on contaminants and ensure products constituents are fit for purpose. The new bio-fertilisers will also impact the ‘plant protection product’ market in a positive way.

The provenance for many of these changes is in the detail of the new ‘European Green Deal’ and the ‘New Circular Economy’ action plan – all inspiring and worth a read!

My time as President of this great Chartered Institute completes at the AGM and I have enjoyed every minute of the last two years, despite the challenges of COVID. The Institute is in rude financial health and sits above 1,000 professional members, which is quite a feat given the storms of COVID.

Being President means that you interact with some very talented people in this organisation. Rachel Kemp has done a wonderful job keeping HQ administration functioning under intense lockdown pressure. Our Treasurer Gabriel Roe has kept our finances in order and has continually provided wise counsel to all committees. Jason Daff our Treasurer has been the star of this COVID period organising all our webinars and keeping the institute at the front of Education. Vice President Susan Nicholas has been a tireless worker behind the scenes supervising the management board

and making sure we meet all of our objectives. I wish to thank all officers for their significant contribution to the successful management of this Chartered Institute.

Finally, my thanks to members for their encouragement and support during my two years in office. I look forward to seeing you all in Edinburgh at our September ‘Annual Conference’.

Gerald Bonner CHort, FCIHort