John Innes (1829-1904)

Image: (Wikipedia) “*Sugar beets were not grown on a large scale in the United Kingdom until the mid-1920s, when 17 processing factories were built, following war-time shortages of imported cane sugar.

From Wikipedia:

“Innes was born on 20 January 1829 in Hampstead, Middlesex (now London Borough of Camden). He was the sixth of seven children of West Indies merchant John Innes (1786 – 1869) and his wife Mary Reid (1792 – 1849), a daughter of brewer Andrew Reid. The family owned sugar plantations in Jamaica and imported rum into England. They supported the anti-slavery campaign in the West Indies and eventually sold all the business interests. Innes was educated at boarding school in Brighton.

Innes’s early career was as a wine merchant in the City of London, but, in 1864, he founded the City of London Real Property Company with his older brother James. The company developed and managed office buildings in the City, but also purchased farm land in Merton in 1864 and created the Merton Park Estate Company. For his own home, Innes purchased Manor Farm. Around 1872, Innes became Lord of the Manor of Merton.
On the Merton land, Innes developed a garden suburb with wide roads of houses designed by architect H G Quartermain between 1870 and 1904. In the 1890s, Innes’s own house was rebuilt to a Quartermain design as the Manor House. As part of the promotion of the suburb, Innes arranged for the local railway station to renamed from Lower Merton to Merton Park in 1887.
Innes was chairman of trustees of a charity established by William Rutlish, Embroiderer to Charles II, on his death in 1687. The charity’s function was to provide funds to educate the poor children of the parish of Merton, but by the 1890s the charity had accumulated a considerable excess of funds. Innes used some of this excess to establish Rutlish School.
John Innes remained a bachelor until his death on 8 August 1904 and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Merton Park. He left most of the grounds of the Manor House to be converted into a public park for the benefit of the residents of the parishes of Merton and Morden. He left funds and his home, Manor Farm in Watery Lane, and its grounds for the creation of the horticultural institute which still bears his name, the John Innes Centre. His bequest to the nation was to be used for either a school of horticulture that would provide “technical instruction in the principles of the science and art of horticulture and the application thereof to the industry or employment of gardening”, or a public museum for the collection of paintings and other works of art. In 1906, the trustees asked the Charity Commissioners to prepare a scheme and by 1908 the scheme was approved by both trustees and Board of Agriculture. On 12 January 1909 the scheme came into force and in 1910 the John Innes Horticultural Institution opened.
The John Innes institute moved from Merton Park in 1945 and is now located in Colney, Norfolk, a world leader in plant science and microbiology. John Innes compost, now widely used in gardening, was developed by the centre. The grounds of Innes’s home south of Watery Lane are now the site of Rutlish School, John Innes Park and John Innes Recreation Ground. The Manor House in Watery Lane, is used by the school and a blue plaque identifying it as his former residence was placed there in 1978.
A local conservation group, the John Innes Society, is dedicated to safeguarding and improving the built and natural environment in and around the Merton Park area.”

Chris Hill wrote in the Eastern Daily Press of 12.1.21:

“A Norwich-based science team has secured £150,000 of funding to urgently find “molecular solutions” to a devastating crop virus – so farmers won’t need to use harmful pesticides.

John Innes Centre researcher Dr Yiliang Ding and her colleagues received the European Research Council (ERC) “proof of concept” grant to develop new genetic approaches to combat the problem of virus yellows, which has been causing severe damage to East Anglia’s *sugar beet crops.

The virus can destroy 50pc of the crop yield and is carried by aphids which were previously controlled by neonicotinoid pesticides – seed treatments banned in 2019 due to fears over their impact on the health of bees and pollinators.

Last week, Defra granted an emergency temporary authorisation for the “limited and controlled” use of the chemicals on sugar beet in 2021 after industry bodies said the disease posed a serious threat to the 2021 crop.

The move provoked outrage among conservationists, but was welcomed as a vital short-term solution by farmers.

However, in the longer-term, alternative genetic solutions are urgently needed to replace neonicotinoid pesticides.

The “ultra-RNA” approach developed by Dr Ding’s group works with viral RNAs (ribonucleic acids) which are described as “messengers” carrying genetic codes from an organism’s DNA.

By using this technique, the team hopes to develop a treatment which can target and degrade the virus – without the environmental damage associated with farm pesticides and chemical sprays.

Roland Wouters a PhD student at the John Innes Centre, said: “We want to specifically target the virus, which is done with an RNA.

“It is not like a neonicotinoid which kills the target insect but could kill other beneficial insects as well.

“With this technique we only attack the virus we want to attack. We want to be specific, and only attack the things that are harmful. That is why insecticides are not the best way forward.”

Group leader Dr Ding added: “This is very much a team project and I am delighted that our work has been recognised in this way and my group can now look forward to developing urgently-needed solutions.” “

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