|NOTES FROM TRENOWETH
In August 1967 MAFF opened its Isles of Scilly sub-station at Trenoweth,
St. Mary's. Thirty years later, despite government cutbacks and uncertainty,
the station still survives to celebrate an important milestone and many
significant achievements. Its future is more secure now than for
many years and its work still vital for the continuance of commercial horticulture
on the Islands. Relaunched in 1992 as a private company, Trenoweth
Research and Development Station Ltd retains its original objectives, namely
to improve the profitability of the Islands' farms, but its methods and
finances reflect the changing times. Unlike in the early years when
the Islands' had their own resident, and free horticultural adviser, growers
now requiring a full service of information and advice have to become subscribers.
From the start, the Duchy of Cornwall have played a central role in
Trenoweth's success by providing good land, buildings and much assistance.
The centre is now well equipped to serve the needs of the 300 acre, mainly
narcissus, industry, and this year will see the opening of a new office,
an improved meeting and facilities for visitors.
Since MAFF handed over management of the centre to a 7-man Board of
Directors under the Chairmanship of Jon May, the company has secured a
5 year funding package under the European 5b initiative which together
with MAFF funding, underpins the project. The remainder has to be
raised from other sponsors such as the Duchy of Cornwall, the Islands'
Council, the Horticultural Development Council and through local membership
and commercial activities.
The full extent to which Trenoweth has helped to maintain a viable
horticultural industry in Scilly can only be estimated, but over its 30
year life it has introduced and promoted developments without which commercial
flower production could never have survived against the very strong competition
that exists today.
The reason for establishing the station was to study the production
of the Islands' principal crop; narcissus Grand Soleil d'Or. This
winter flower remains the backbone of the industry, and fortunately cannot
be produced in the open anywhere else in northern Europe. In the
'60's and '70's the sole means of advancing the flowering of Soleil d'Or
was by importing, spreading and burning expensively purchased straw.
This was superseded by the development of propane gas burners and Trenoweth
showed that several passes over the ground was more effective than a single
treatment and more importantly, that the growth promoting agent was smoke.
Twenty years ago, pre-Christmas flowers were produced by the laborious
and uncertain process of digging up and warm storing the bulbs. This
has now been replaced by the practice of covering the bulbs fields with
clear polythene beneath which smoke is introduced, a technique which has
greatly increased the volume of early flowers whilst reducing costs.
These techniques have given particularly dramatic results with Paper White
narcissi which, without treatment, frequently fail to flower. Now
this variety provides a reliable start to the flower season. As far
as is known our systems are unique in the bulb growing world.
Those who attended the inaugural day in 1967 would surely be gratified
to see the contribution that Trenoweth has made and could be well pleased
that their efforts and foresight have been rewarded. Today, Trenoweth
is highly regarded in the horticultural world, especially for its pioneering
work on Tazetta Narcissi. Honoured as a centre "in pursuit of excellence",
this remains the station's commitment for the future to ensure that Scilly
retains its historic 100 year flower industry.
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