The mild, relative frost-free climate in Southern Ireland is ideal for growing lush, premium foliage and a unique product range has been developed in conjunction with Teagasc and Bord Bia at research stations in Kildalton College, Kilkenny and in Tralee, Co Kerry. Irish foliage now worth €6m in exports is harvested from over 150ha and sold to flower markets in the UK and Holland. Expansion in planted areas supported by the DAFM in past two to three years will see a doubling of the production base coming on stream in 2018/2019. Irish foliage is well positioned to capitalise on the recent surge in environmental accreditation being demanded by the multiples and Teagasc research on sustainable production systems is crucial to progressing the industry and meeting the high regulatory and market specifications.
A major research program funded by the DAFM which commenced in 2017 in support of the industry is a collaboration between Teagasc, UCD and industry stakeholders. The work aims to identify novel foliage plant lines and optimum propagation techniques. In addition, epidemiology of key pests of foliage (tortrix moth and capsid) and diseases such as bacterial shot hole of Prunus is being gathered through intensive monitoring and survey work coupled with laboratory and field trials. Environmentally responsible measures will ultimately be sought for growers to tackle these critical issues in line with EU legislation under the Sustainable Use Directive. Given the parallels with the hardy nursery stock industry, results of the New Leaves work will be of benefit to the wider woody ornamental sector.
There is an opportunity to hear how this latest research work is progressing and to see at first hand some of the key foliage products at a field event to be held in Kildalton College on 15 August at 11 am. For further details contact Andy Whelton of the Horticultural Development Department at email@example.com ✽