Vegetable seed company Hazera has a long heritage in breeding cucumber. Hazera stood at the cradle of game-changing improvements in cucumber genetics, especially in mini cucumber. While it is continuing these improvements, the company is now also embracing other types, conquering new markets and exploring new marketing possibilities. An overview of recent developments with Hazera’s Global Cucurbits Product Manager Mark van der Zouwen.
Cucumber comes in a wide range of types, from 10 cm baby cucumbers for snacking to the well-known 30 cm long cucumbers for non-heated or high-tech heated greenhouses, with mini cucumbers (also called Beit Alpha), Slicers, Pickling types and a wide variety of Asian types in between.
Mark van der Zouwen: “Hazera’s heritage started in mini cucumber, that are mostly grown in non-heated greenhouses in the Mediterranean region, in the Middle East, Central Asia and in the Americas as well. Today mini cucumbers are grown as well in heated greenhouses in North America and northern Europe. Hazera now covers the complete range. We introduced many breakthrough innovations since the nineteen eighties. For example strong improvements in fruit quality (uniform shape and colour), drastic yield improvement, adaptability to different growing conditions and more recently long shelf life. In the early eighties we also started specialising in the long type for non-heated greenhouses, mostly in the Mediterranean region. Here we introduced similar innovations, including extended shelf life (many remember the Suprami variety) and lately we came up with varieties combining resistances to both powdery mildew and virus diseases such as CVYV and CYSDV.
In the mini types, Hazera is now in the top 3 of breeding companies worldwide, with varieties that are very well adapted to the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Central American markets. Mark: “Our market shares in mini are growing steadily, and we have extended our breeding activities, locating them in the very middle of these regions. Beside successful varieties for spring-summer like the Bereket and Dennis, we now launch new varieties also for the more stressful cool season as successors to Cohiba. A very interesting development is the midi cucumber for heated greenhouses like our spring-autumn variety Nikifor that is giving high yield and fruit quality, for example in Poland where high-tech growers are using it.”
Recently, Hazera’s breeding has also been preparing a strong pipeline in baby cucumber, featuring fruits of 8-12 cm, which rapidly gain popularity in many markets where healthy snacking and convenience are booming.
The long type is getting very much in focus again, boosted by new breeding activities in Spain. Here, Hazera recently launched the success variety Batallón for Almeria and the Granada region. Mark: “This is a winter variety with excellent color, lenghth and shelf life and resistance to viruses. The developments in long cucumber breeding in Spain will certainly have a positive consolidation in other regions with similar growing conditions, such as Greece, Mexico, Oceania and South Africa.”
One of the latest developments are the activities to enter the Chinese market, for which Hazera recently started breeding activities. Mark: “With our vast experience as a solid base, our ambition is to incorporate the needs and types for the Chinese market in our programmes. If we want to be a global specialist, we must be present in this growing market that is the biggest worldwide and very open to innovations. Chinese cultivation and consumption are quite different from other regions. So we must be very aware to respect the needs and traditions of the Chinese while bringing innovation at the same time.”
What will the cucumber future look like for Hazera? Mark:”We will further extend our breeding activities to all important regions for this worldwide crop. Our rich gene pool will be used to create genetic diversity finetuned to the major production areas. Disease resistances, especially to root and viral diseases will be crucial, and could be a way to avoid costly grafting. We’ll adapt our varieties to effective high yield growing techniques. And last but not least we will develop products responding to the needs of the entire fresh produce chain. The aim is to look for possible innovations to turn bulk products into products that offer better convenience and superior added value to consumers. After all they are the ones who consume the final product and for whom we are working every day.”