The pandemic is still having an impact on what we do, and I feel it will be with us for a number of years to come. Whilst countries are slowly opening up, we are still experiencing anomalies across the four nations. Many events happening in the second part of the year are being cancelled, mainly due to financial risk. Only this past week the Edinburgh Tattoo has been cancelled. Many regional events such as the Southport Flower show are now not taking place. I am pleased that the Harrogate Spring show was able to go ahead. It was very much reduced in size. Northern Branch were able to field their advice stand from an open marquee.

Sadly, our conference that was due to take place at Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh (RGBE) in September has been postponed until spring 2022. RGBE are unable to release any dates for 2021. We will advise you when we have firmed up new dates.

Last year we took the opportunity to revamp the format of the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition. Colleges and Universities are delivering their courses online, and this has meant we were unable to run heats. The new online round has successfully taken place. The Action Group put in months of hard work to reach this point. The Regional finals will also take place online this year. We are looking forward to the Grand Final due to take place in September at Logan Botanic Garden on 4th September 2021.

Peat is very much in the news. The government has released The England Peat Action Plan. This sets out their vision to reverse the decline of our peatland habitats. In 2011 the ambition was for the horticultural sector to be peat free by 2030. Peat based growing media has been in production for over seventy years. Research and refinement have delivered a stable product. This has enabled growers to produce excellent crops. The alternatives to peat-based products are being developed. The quality and stability of non-peat based growing media is very much debated and is providing challenges for all in our industry.

Horticulture Research and Development is under threat, due to funding streams being lost. The Growers Better Levy Group, backed by many large growers are exploring ways of how funding can be secured.

Recently the Fields in Trust Green Space Index has been launched. Parks and open spaces are under constant threat. It is hoped that many authorities will follow the example of Liverpool and Edinburgh in protecting them for the benefit of the public.

Susan Nicholas FCIHort