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“Mechanisation is needed now more than ever”


Rijk Zwaan is contributing solutions that allow labour to be reduced at a complicated time for the sector due to Covid and the Interprofessional Minimum Wage.

The seed company Rijk Zwaan continues extending its range of leafy vegetables and brassicas to help the sector in a complicated year. “Mechanisation is needed now more than ever,” according to José Luis Saiz, Crop Coordinator Lettuce for Rijk Zwaan at EMEA. And the fact is that, along with the rise in the Interprofessional Minimum Wage and the increase in labour expenses, there are the mobility difficulties due to Covid-19. An added problem in a sector that was already suffering from a lack of quality labour. Rijk Zwaan’s solution to these problems is the Salanova Teen Leaf line for lettuces at high density for mechanical harvesting (30-40 plants/m2 with 8-10 cm of leaf), which allows them to be cut by machine and taken directly to the processing line.

“All the types can be replaced using this system: Batavia, trocadero, open heart romaines, designed for fresh-cut processing…” Additionally, all their Teen Leaf incorporate the Knox property that delays oxidation, a bonus when cutting in the fields, but also for the fresh range at a time when the consumption of pieces has increased in homes. “To prevent oxidation being seen on the trunk, the companies covered it with the packaging; this is not necessary with Knox.”

Owing to the fact that people are going out less and cooking more, there has been “an important upswing in sales in concepts such as Snack Lettuce”, with a ‘spoon-shaped’ leaf, which allows healthy dishes to be cooked without needing any other edible ‘support’ (bread for example) or containers (plates, etc). In this line they are launching new varieties that complete the range, such as Guayabita.

Rijk Zwaan is strengthening the promotion of materials in line with the rising trends. This is the case of indoor crops, which continue growing, not only in Central Europe, but also in Spain (Madrid, the Basque Country, Galicia, Navarra, Barcelona…), dragged along by the local consumption trend. “Hydroponics allows cultivation anywhere and it does not use pesticides. It is frequently used for special lettuces such as Salanova”. In this segment, they have “new combinations of Salatrio with Salanovas that bring longer shelf-life.”

Another trend in recent years, flavour, can be clearly seen in concepts such as Fun Tasty Cos. “They are crunchy, very juicy and with a pleasant flavour and they also have the best of icebergs and romaines, with an oval shape, in between both types, but with a longer shelf-life than romaines, in line with the plastic-free trend.”

Now Kale as well

In brassicas, Rijk Zwaan is concentrating its efforts on developing solutions that are better adapted to the pressure of diseases in the fields due to climate change and products that allow the harvesting span to be extended, José Hernández, a Specialist in Brassicas, explains.

This year, they are entering the world of kale with 31-KA001 RZ (pre-commercial), which brings regrowth and is focused on high density sowing aimed at mechanisation.

With the broccoli Larsson RZ already well-established on the market, in 2021 they will launch a variety that complements it, 25-BR729 RZ for winter harvests (January-February). “It has a great post-harvest, way above others in the segment, lengthening the shelf-life one extra week.”

In cauliflowers, they have completed all the white cauliflower cycles with 26-392 RZ, (a complement to Casper RZ). Other recent launches are: 26-CA070 RZ (complement to Tramont RZ) and Brigant RZ. Additionally, they “bring colour to life with the purple variety” Lavender RZ for all seasons and are ideal for dipping.

Finally, in pointed cabbage they have added a new variety for winter, 30-PC607 RZ and they continue promoting Lincma RZ.

All of this may be seen at their International Winter Open Field Days: from the 8th to the 12th of February online for the international market and from the 15th to the 19th on site in Murcia.

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