Dutch supplier aims to improve quality in set production for onion growers

A supplier is trying to tackle the issue of quality in set production for onion growers, integrating the supply chain from breeding through to production.

Broer, based in Andijk in north-west Holland, has bred varieties with improved traits. Production director Henk Jonker said: "It's about keeping our new genetics in-house. Our Quality Inside brand is mainly used on unique genetics and we are breeding specifically for set production."

The new varieties bring better resistance to field-borne diseases, such as in Stur BC 20 and Hyred F1, which improve on Sturon and the open-pollinated variety Red Baron respectively.

Broer set up a comprehensive production protocol for all material because most disease issues have been due to weather factors or production failings. "Fields are inspected before sowing for white rot, PCN and eelworm," Jonker explained. "At the same time, a lot number is assigned at sowing to give complete traceability."

All material is stored in boxes rather than bulk and harvested crop is graded to remove soil, stones, tops and other contaminants before storage. Jonker added: "All the boxes are warmed before grading and cooled again afterwards."

The production facility at Andijk can produce four different size grades of sets as part of the Quality Inside brand and material is graded by hand to remove any further contaminants or diseased or damaged material.

"We are looking at optical grading, but there is too much colour variation," said Jonker. "New graders are starting to look internally at the material, but they slow the grading process down. Sets are quite easy to handle when they are in good condition. The main part of our work is done in the field." Once graded, material is carefully stored in the purpose-designed ventilated storage area before shipping.

Jonker explained that as part of this field-to-customer approach, Broer had "done a lot of work on heat treatment on new varieties. Longer treatment means more costs, more product loss and less vigorous growth. Consequently, it makes seed more expensive."

Broer is a wholly-owned subsidiary of multinational vegetable breeder Bejo Zaden, with its products distributed in the UK through Elsoms seeds.

By combining Elsoms' market knowledge, Bejo's breeding and Broer's production, the companies feel they can offer added value to growers.

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