Hazera breeders focusing on grower issues

There was a firm focus on delivering varieties which help to deliver practical solutions to the problems faced by growers at Hazera’s annual Lincolnshire open days, which were held at Kirton Holme near Boston on 10th and 11th October. With this in mind, pest resistance, ease of harvesting and season extension were among the attributes discussed across a range of brassica crops. Richard Crowhurst reports.

“The big threats that growers are currently facing are a lack of crop protection products and a lack of labour, and the unknown consequences of Brexit,” commented Hazera’s Nick Bolton. “These are firmly in our minds as plant breeders. For example, thrips are a big issue on brassica crops, particularly on Brussels sprouts and cabbage where they cause oedema-like symptoms. New white cabbage Lucas F1 (previously code 17-1284) has performed well against thrips in trials, as has mid-season variety Ramenos F1. Both varieties mature in around 135 days, and Nick says that Lucas has stood out particularly due to its storage characteristics. “Lucas has proved itself in long-term cold storage through until July,” he said. “It is one of the standout varieties from our cabbage programme.

“In the future my feeling is that more cabbage crops in the UK will be harvested mechanically, and both Lucas and Ramenos have a tall stem to facilitate this.” Ramenos produces tall, vigorous and uniform plants, suitable for producing dense 1 kg heads. “Ramenos doesn’t keep growing, and therefore doesn’t get too large,” continued Nick. “It has a vigorous frame but maintains a relatively small head size.”

“In Savoy cabbage we have been looking at frost resistance,” he added. “Brexit could affect our ability to import crops and trigger a revival in home-grown brassica production. In order to help levels of winter vegetable production to increase, you need good frost resistance and good colour.” These are both characteristics of new Savoys: 14-634 F1, a late variety for harvesting in March and April after 160-180 days, and 14-684 F1 which is a 140 to 160 day variety ideal for February.

“We have a very good reputation for frost tolerance with Tundra and both of these varieties bring that robust frost tolerance to a true Savoy type,” said Nick. “I’m keen to see how they cope with the challenges of a Scottish winter.” Both 14-634 and 14-684 have medium resistance to Xanthomonas and deep savoyed leaves in a compact dark green head.

Hazera has always had a very active breeding programme for pointed cabbage, with varieties such as Monarchy and Dutchman proving popular in recent years. This year another three new varieties were on display, the earliest of which was 15-1028 F1. This has just completed its first season of development trials. It is ideal for early season production in May and June. “We are trying to introduce earliness to expand the season beyond June to October, and bring it forward a couple of weeks,” said Nick.

For mid-season production in July to September there is 15-1023 F1, which Nick says is around a week later than Regency, with which it can be reliably grown in a programme. 15-1023 produces very uniform 500 gram heads within a bright green wrapper leaf, and is still at an early trials stage. The latest maturing of the new introductions is 15-1038 F1 which is very vigorous for late season production.

“It is very similar in maturity to Monarchy but slightly early to heart so it might be more reliable. We hope it can extend the season with production until late October, and stored crop being used until the end of December. With these new varieties I believe we can extend the UK season by a month at either end and allow UK production to replace imported products.”

The last highlight of this year’s open day was a new red cabbage, 13-513 F1, which Nick described as a new high yielding mid-season variety. With 140 day maturity it is suitable for the production of both small packing and larger processing head sizes. “It is very high yielding and has a nice round shape with a deep red colour,” said Nick. “It has the potential for mid-term storage until the end of March and in its first year of UK trials it has performed very well, standing out due to its shape and colour.