Thank you Dr Doom

Writers Posted 30/04/19
Dr Martin Luton was one of the most passionate advocates of British Top Fruit and its growers.

I know that I usually write about issues that affect our sector but this month I want to write about Dr Martin Luton, or Dr Doom as he was fondly (and widely) known. He has sadly passed away. He was known as Dr Doom for his excitement at finding problems within fruit that he was analysing, he has been someone who made an enormous difference to the British top fruit industry. Martin was one of the most passionate advocates of British Top Fruit and its growers – the vicar elicited chuckles of sympathy when he related asking Martin what he thought of Golden Delicious!

We learnt that Martin was always academic and initially decided he would be a medical doctor, but fortunately for us, via a stint as a trials officer for ICI looking after crop protection product trials, he decided to study botany at Imperial instead. He found he really liked studying and stayed for a PhD too sponsored by a Canadian Mineral company which led to his roles at EMR, ADAS and Worldwide Fruit. Tony Harding of WWF gave a moving eulogy of Martin’s professional life, sharing anecdotes of the challenges of working with Martin, the embracing of the team of equals philosophy (and how that has greatly influenced their management style to this day). Also how he supported their professional development and their families. A tale was told of Nigel Jenner’s first day at ADAS – Martin was on holiday for his first week and that first day Nigel was rather alarmed when upon announcing ‘I’m Martin Luton’s assistant’ great sympathy was shared by the rest of the team. We can only assume sympathy because of the rigours of working with such a dedicated man, working with Martin was never dull, the day never ending until the job was done, the most thorough set of results and advice produced for the grower. He was never shy in making his feelings known, of pushing home a point that he really believed in, advocating what he felt was right; absolutely the champion we needed.

One thing that everyone in top fruit must thank Martin for is the thorough harvest and post-harvest monitoring protocols that we have today. Every time we work out the size potential for our crops from estimate, how we look at the starch patterns to decide storage potential, how we monitor our crops in store, don’t forget that this man had great influence in getting that standardised system rolled out across the sector. We cannot forget his absolute dedication to seasonal data and how these records can demonstrate storage potential and crop quality year on year. In the fruit show office we may have moaned about how late his reports were for the handbook and how incredibly long they inevitably would be, but everyone appreciates the benefit his tables and historical data has given us. So next time you are sampling your apples from store, play some Chuck Berry and remember Dr Doom.

On fruit show matters, our AGM, in the new Marden Hockey club, had some major announcements. We formally introduced our new show Secretary, Catherine Joules to the membership; Catherine is well known to the Kent growers from her former role as county NFU adviser. I’m pleased to say that she’s made a flying start, the office is humming with activity and we’re really enjoying having her as part of the team. This good news is tempered by the less good news that Michael Jack is standing down as president of the society. Staying five years beyond the initial agreed term, his good council and support has been invaluable and contributed to the great success of the last decade for the show. We will be celebrating his fantastic decade with us at the show in October.


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