Vegetable growing comes second nature to broccoli grower, Peter Aarts. Based in Pukekawa, New Zealand, Peter and his brother Murray have been growing for over 30 years with their company Sundale Farm Ltd, where they originally grew onions, potatoes and broccoli. Today, Peter runs a mixed-cropping operation rotating potatoes, broccoli, onions, barley and pasture grass.
Peter has been a Seminis supporter since becoming a grower, trialling various broccoli programs over that time. Now onto a High-Rise™ program, Sundale Farm started trialling Seminis’ latest raised head-type Titanium, a variety that offers reduced labour costs and ease of harvest.
“We started out seeing Titanium in very small tray trials, then moving to multiple tray trials, and now commercially,” says Peter.
“It has been a consistent performer for the last few seasons, and now that we are on a larger commercial scale, we are confident the variety’s been able to provide us with labour savings as well as ease of harvest.”
“As the variety came into slot it was clear Titanium’s head sat higher than conventional varieties, which allowed the harvest crew to see the heads. The slightly higher head also makes it easier to cut as there are less leaf branches on the stem close to the crown which makes it perfect for full trimmed packing. In recent harvests we have only been doing two passes which not only helps with labour but also less compaction and ground damage, particularly with the wet weather we’ve had this year.
Varieties out of Seminis’ High-Rise program, like Titanium, have been bred with key traits to give growers confidence in their performance as conditions change. Yield potential, adaptability, climate variability and labour costs have all been the forefront of the brassica breeding program.
“Titanium’s uniformity is spot on. The variety crowns are extremely uniform in shape, colour and style. We did have an experience early on where the head shape was a bit uneven, but it was still perfectly marketable.
“Something that’s surprised me most is the variety’s ease of harvest due to lack of leaf branches close to the crown. A lot of traditional varieties that have been around for years are hard to rip and strip, leaving a lot of scarring to the stem, there’s none of that with Titanium.
“Titanium’s breeding traits are becoming more and more important in today’s growing world. Not only are labour costs increasing but so are fertiliser and chemical prices all of which increase a grower’s overall cost. If we are able to make some savings in one department – that’s what you want,” says Peter.
“A lot of us face the same issues so I think it’s important for growers to be looking at new varieties entering the market. With a variety like Titanium it continues to provide a uniform, easy to harvest, firm broccoli crown that one day we could machine harvest – it’s worth making changes,” he says.
As for Peter, he looks forward to seeing more innovative varieties coming through the Seminis broccoli pipeline.
“My ideal broccoli is a plant with even less leaves, and one we can get 90 percent on the first cut. I also think disease control through variety resistance is becoming more and more important. This region in particular has been growing vegetables for over 100 years so there are diseases in the soil which are even harder to control.”
For more information on the innovation behind Seminis’ brassica breeding program by award-winning breeder Meindert Boon, click here.