Potatoes prove to be nation's most popular crop in first national own-grown food survey since second world war

  • Scientists at University of Sheffield reveal most popular fruit and vegetables grown in UK gardens and allotments
  • Potatoes are most popular crop grown by gardeners and allotment holders with strawberries, plums and currants being the most productive crops by yield density
  • Survey is first of its kind since Dig for Victory campaign during second world war
  • Scientists invite gardeners, allotment holders, school groups, city farms and anyone growing their own fruit or vegetables to contribute to project
  • Project highlights important contribution that gardeners can make to UK’s food security

A pair of hands holding freshly harvested potatoes

Potatoes are the nation’s most popular crop according to the first survey of own-grown fruit and vegetable production since the Dig for Victory campaign during the second world war.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have revealed the most plentiful fruit and vegetables grown across the UK in gardens and allotments.

Almost 700 people have signed up to the MYHarvest project so far, which will assess the important contribution green-fingered growers make to national food security and also reveal how much allotment and garden space we need in the future for the growing number of people living in our cities and towns.

These are the first set of results from the innovative citizen science project which was launched last year and will run until the end of March 2019.

Dr Jill Edmondson, a soil scientist and ecologist from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, said the project has already provided key insights into the ability of urban areas to contribute to UK food security.

“Almost 10,000 harvests have been recorded so far which equates to nearly 33 tonnes of own-grown fruit and vegetables – that’s heavier than six elephants” said Dr Edmondson.

“MYHarvest is helping us to build up a comprehensive picture of how gardeners and allotment holders contribute to UK food security and sustainability.

“With over 80 per cent of the UK population living in cities or towns that are currently dependent on imported fruit and vegetables, it is important to understand how we can make our cities and towns even more sustainable.”

Now that spring has finally sprung the MYHarvest team are appealing for more people to take part in the national survey. Anyone who grows their own fruit or vegetables, even if it’s only a small patch for carrots, can take part. Simply visit the MYHarvest website and log information about what you are growing, where you are growing it, and how much you have produced.

Own-growers are also encouraged to capture and share their harvests – from scrumptious strawberries to juicy tomatoes - on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #MYHarvest

Dr Edmondson added: “We have already gathered some fascinating results about the UK’s growing habits.

“For example apples are the second most plentiful crops grown by gardeners and allotment holders by cultivated area, however more than 60 per cent of the apples sold in supermarkets and shops are imported.

“We are hoping that collecting even more information will help us to identify any spatial patterns for favourite crop types or yields by region.”

By weight the most plentiful crops recorded so far are potatoes, courgettes, apples and tomatoes. By yield density, the most productive crops per unit area are strawberries, followed by plums and currants. Potatoes are grown by the most people, followed by courgettes and French/climbing beans.

Roscoe Blevins, a research scientist in the MYHarvest team, said: “Every piece of information we receive from the nation’s own-growers will be important to the outcomes of this project and we hope taking part will also be a fun way for growers to get the most out of their planting as they compare their own findings with that of others around the country.

“We’d love to hear from all gardeners, school groups, city farms, allotment owners and anyone who is growing their own fruit or vegetables – whether they are doing it for the first time or they are an accomplished green-fingered horticulturist.

The project is a Living with Environmental Change Fellowship funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) and is supported by the National Allotment Society (NAS) and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

Anne Adam, RHS Horticultural Advisor, said: “The RHS is pleased to support this exciting project. Good data about the amount of own-grown produce produced in the UK is hard to find and we hope this innovative project will help provide more information. We would encourage as many of our members and gardeners as possible to take part.”

The MYHarvest team will be visiting a number of horticultural and agricultural shows throughout the summer following their visit to The Harrogate Flower Show last week.

Di Appleyard, from the NAS, said: “The NAS will be encouraging members and all plot-holders to engage with the MYHarvest project and record their allotment haul this season. The information gathered will reinforce our message about the many benefits of allotment growing and help us to continue to grow the allotment movement.”

MYHarvest is part of a wider research project that will study whether there are any barriers to using other urban greenspaces to increase the area of land used for own-grown food production. For example some soils within greenspaces may contain high concentrations of pollutants such as heavy metals that could pose a risk to human health if used for food production.

Submit your harvest

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

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For further information please contact:

Sean Barton
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9852