Vegetable seed trials - Variety showcase

International seed breeders opened the gates at their trial grounds in North Holland to show growers their newest varieties, Gavin McEwan reports.

Broccoli: Syngenta’s Monrello was introduced last year and has a very good shelf life but needs to be planted late - image: HW
Broccoli: Syngenta’s Monrello was introduced last year and has a very good shelf life but needs to be planted late - image: HW

Last month saw the main international field vegetable seed breeders once more open their trial grounds in the province of North Holland to showcase their latest varieties and other industry developments.

Brassicas

The trials coincided with the rebranding of Nickerson-Zwaan as Hazera. Senior range manager Nick Bolton explained that different divisions within the Limagrain group had been "paired up", so just as Harris Moran and Clause have become HM Clause, so now Nickerson-Zwaan and Hazera will share the Israeli division’s name, which simply means "the seed" in Hebrew.

One of the fruits of Hazera’s breeding is the trial broccoli variety 18-181, expected to be named shortly. "It has a firm dense head that will withstand rough treatment by consumers when displayed loose on shelves," says Bolton.

The spring green Summer Jewel is a main-season complement to Winter Jewel, which tends not to heart up or turn yellow but keeps its dark-green leaves and boasts good field holding. It will be available to growers for next season.

A new autumn Savoy cabbage, 14-668, has similar characteristics to the later Jespis, including strong green colouring. "Supermarkets want them looking the same throughout the season and our range meets that need," says Bolton.

Similarly in cauliflowers, the new Raoul serves as a later sister variety to Seoul, he adds. "Growers are paid by weight when cauliflowers and broccoli go for processing, which makes a dense, heavy-headed variety like Raoul attractive — though it can still be sold whole-head too."

On Brussels sprouts, two new mild-flavoured varieties, Brel and Brodie, aim to find favour with non-sprout eaters at Christmas. Brodie in particular "tastes more like broccoli, which is often the only green veg that children will eat", Bolton explains, adding that both have large stems and buttons to maximise harvesting efficiency.

Syngenta showcased two new cauliflower and two new Brussels sprout varieties. Already widely grown on the continent, the midseason cauliflower Korlanu is new to the UK market this year and is "doing very well in trials", with good shape, self-protection and closure at the bottom, according to brassica specialist Phillip Ayres, who adds that the later Gohan has similar merits and is also newly available this year.

"We are breeding for clubroot resistance, with several varieties on the market already and more coming," he says. "Also in white cabbage, we are breeding for resistance to Fusarium and in Savoy for Fusarium and white blister. We are also seeing some resistance to Xanthomonas."
On Brussels sprouts, Cobelius is a "medium segment" variety for the November-December period. "It has a very open structure so that sprays can get in, as well as good leaf-drop and nice round buttons, with good holding in the field, a trait we breed for," says Ayres.

The slightly earlier Profitus, which came onto the UK market last year, has bright-green, round buttons and good standing. Meanwhile, Syngenta’s purple Redarling variety already has its very own website (redarling.co.uk) as well as a livery on delivery lorries.

Its entries into what it terms the rosette sprout market, Frivole Red and Frivole Green, will be launched next year. "The red variety keeps its dark colour when you cook it," says Ayres. On broccoli, Monrello, which was introduced last year, has "a really nice domed head and very good shelf life, but needs to be planted late", he adds.

Takii’s Japanese-style "flat" white cabbage has progressed to Dutch supermarket shelves as "aromatic cabbage". But area sales manager Jelle Kleijn explains: "The problem is that ‘kool’ [cabbage in Dutch] isn’t cool, and it hasn’t been profitable either. Growers are looking for an alternative with similar cultivation."

The oriental variety "can be stir-fried without pre-boiling or you can even use it as a fresh salad", he adds. "It’s something the supermarkets will pursue if they see added value and we are also trialling it with processors." In the UK, he says: "The problem isn’t growing it but getting it accepted."

Meanwhile, its late-season Chinese leaf variety Enduro, together with its other seasonal varieties, "gives you the possibility to deliver through the year because of its excellent storage through to March/April," says Kleijn.

Leafy salads

Nunhems unveiled Elsol, a new medium-compact iceberg lettuce for light and medium-heavy soils. Suitable for fresh market production in summer, it is highly heat-tolerant, slow to bolt and resistant to tip burn and lettuce downy mildew. It combines with other varieties Gondar, Kindu, Kuala, Skindel and Templin to provide season-long growing, according to Nunhems.

In the mini-romaine segment, Thimble is an early-filling variety with blistered leaves that close well in all conditions. Easy and fast to harvest, it is also strong against bolting and tip burn. Nunhems lettuce sales manager Matthew Beevers says: "In Elsol we bring robust performance in hot summer months to lighter soils, while Thimble is a reliable and stable year-round option."

Syngenta salad crop specialist George Hallam describes the main leafy salad market as "fairly stable — there’s always demand for iceberg, romaine and little gem". The "brain-shaped" iceberg Ice Castle, for spring and autumn growing, "has been trialled in all parts of the country and it performs well in each, as well as on the continent", he adds. "It’s dual-purpose — growers want that flexibility. For processing you don’t want something too dense at the centre that will give you big lumps in the bag."

In April, Syngenta bought germplasm from US company Eagle Research & Development to move forward its breeding against tip burn. The variety Bondena is already strong against tip burn in the growing mini-romaine category, Hallam points out, while also boasting resistance to races 16-31 of lettuce downy mildew (Bremia lactucae) and having a "very uniform" profile. The company’s new little gem M@ also has full Bremia resistance. "Our labs will tell you what strain you have and that informs our breeding," says Hallam, adding: "The UK little gem market is looking for something tall rather than dumpy."

Alliums

"Our onion varieties are all about long-term storage," says Syngenta technical specialist Nigel Kingston. On new variety Motion he adds: "Processors value varieties with single centres."

Meanwhile, Medallion "has a strong root system, will grow in a range of soils and also has good strong skins that will stay on through the grading lines", he says.

On this year’s crop Kingston adds: "It’s all about establishment and with the dry April crops that weren’t irrigated didn’t get away so well. It was also a bad year for downy mildew. But after the wet August, things have gone exceedingly well."

Syngenta’s recent long-shafted leek Mercurian "has upright leaves, which makes it easy to clean", says product manager Wolfgang Ott. "The biggest cost in leek production is the washing and cleaning, so this saves you labour." In continental Europe it is for planting in September for harvesting in early November, but in the UK it will overwinter for a March harvest, he adds. It is now fully available.

Takii’s Novista (Teon810) took the award for Best Dutch Onion at the recent Agrifirm Onion & Pea Show, says Jelle Kleijn. "The jury of Dutch industry figures rated 28 varieties on things like shape, colour and thinness of neck. We are well-known for our early assortment and this a recognition of that."

Roots

In a bumper year for new varieties, Bejo showed five new or recent carrots — Norfolk, a midseason Nantes type for the fresh market with smooth, bright cylindrical roots; the slightly earlier Nostal with well-filled roots able to give extra length on peat soils or heavier sands; the mid season Natuna with bright, smooth and well-filled roots; the Imperator-type Ibiza with intense colour and flavour; and the striking Purple Sun, which has a cream-coloured core inside its deep reddish/purple exterior. Since last year it has also branded its pure-white beetroot 2952 as Avalanche.

Currently in its second year of trialling in the UK, Syngenta’s Stellar radish for summer sowing will be commercially available next season. Nigel Kingston describes it as "very promising, nice and round with a thin tap-root", adding: "It will keep in the fridge for two-to-three weeks if you cut off the leaves."


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