Date of release: Friday, March 4, 2016

For more than a century, plant scientists in the Garden of England have been trying to discover the hidden processes that make fruit trees so productive.

Professor Chris Atkinson, a leading authority in the field, will reveal some of the secrets at a free public lecture at the University of Greenwich on Wednesday 23 March.

He will highlight how fruit tree 'root to shoot communication' affects the yields of such crops as apples, pears, cherries and plums.

"Improving our understanding of how communications systems work, and not just in fruit trees, is vital if we are to tackle the challenges of climate change and sustainable intensification of food production," says Chris Atkinson, Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change at the university's Natural Resources Institute.

"We do know a lot more than we did a century ago, when it was realised that certain rootstocks and scion grafts were more productive and efficient in orchards than others.

"But we need more research into how roots respond to changes going on in the soil, such as drying, and how this information is conveyed to the shoot and its impacts on processes, such as flowering and fruiting."

Fruit production contributes more than £622m to the UK economy each year, but the country still imports 3.6m tonnes of fruit annually.

Professor Atkinson's lecture, What makes fruit trees so productive? The science of roots talking to shoots, is the latest in the series of public lectures being run by the university's Faculty of Engineering & Science.

It starts at 6.30pm in the Pembroke Building, at the university's Medway Campus, Chatham Maritime. Places are limited so early booking is essential. Call 020 8331 9800 or email

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Story by Public Relations

Picture: Professor Chris Atkinson