A blackcurrant loaded with vitamin C is being developed by scientists as a way of giving the UK industry an edge in the face of greater competition from aboard.

Researchers in Scotland and at East Malling in Kent are studying the factors that determine levels of the nutrient as part of a £1.2m project funded by the Horticulture Link programme. Dr Robert Hancock, research leader in Scotland, said: "We can grow crops that produce juice with higher levels of vitamin C and a better taste.

"Production has soared in the UK in the past few years as demand has rocketed across Europe. If we can help to improve the crop we can give UK farmers a better, sustainable product to sell."

But there were still some key questions to be explored such as developing techniques to accelerate the breeding of super blackcurrant bushes, he said.

Bushes take three years to grow before coming into commercial production.