A Dutch specialist strawberry breeder has developed a high-performing variety specifically for winter growing under lighting, which it claims could displace imports in northern European markets.
Speaking at an industry event at the Proeftuin Zwaagdijk research centre, ABZ Seeds director Ge Bentvelsen said: "Consumers see packs of Spanish strawberries at the start of the year and think they look good, but the taste is disappointing. Delizzimo will give consumers the taste they expect."
ABZ has already trialled a range of packaging formats for the F1 everbearer variety with customers. "Once you have bred a variety, you then have to implement it," said Bentvelsen. "The grower needs to know the lighting period and intensity, and you have to market it. The production costs will be quite high so you have to target it."
He suggested: "There are tomato glasshouses with lighting that might change to growing a strawberry variety like this."
Taste tests of the sweet, dark-fleshed variety have been highly favourable, with a blind panel tasting at Wageningen University rating Delizzimo higher than early homegrown varieties such as Sonata. Marketing is now in the hands of Belgian strawberry specialist Hoogstraten, Bentvelsen added.
Tabletop system Improved ventilation
Demonstrating a tabletop growing system whose every "table" is enclosed in a mini-polytunnel, Renko Schuil of supplier Metazet Formflex said: "The problem with growing in standard polytunnels is ventilation, especially as they get longer. This allows the wind to circulate freely."
At EUR12 (£9) per square metre, the format is no more expensive than high tunnels, he said, adding that though the format is finding markets on the continent, UK growers remain "fixated" on polytunnels.
ABZ Seeds director Ge Bentvelsen said: "We are breeding with this kind of system in mind," with Delizzimo and other trial varieties featuring long dangling trusses for ease of picking.