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Nunhems® continues to innovate in the lettuce segment to meet consumer demands

The vegetable seeds subsidiary of BASF is introducing new and original types of lettuce and bringing new concepts to supermarket shelves that put an emphasis on the flavour, colour and culinary uses of lettuces 

Nunhems®, the vegetable seeds subsidiary of BASF, is holding a new edition of its Lettuce and Spinach Demofield in Cartagena (Murcia) on 10-14 February, where it will be showcasing not only its new and original types of lettuce and spinach but also its commitment to bringing added value to consumers with the launch of new salad leaf concepts. “We want to go one step further and not just rest on our laurels as a producer but also make the whole retail chain aware of the variety and versatility of different types of lettuce, offering another way of presenting and consuming this product,” explained Juan Pedro Pérez, Crop Sales Manager Salads EMEA at BASF Vegetable Seeds. 

The novelty in the romaine lettuce segment is Magistral, a variety “with which we’re looking to increase crop profitability,” says Carlos del Espino, the lettuce specialist at BASF Vegetable Seeds. Thanks to its smaller size and weight and more uniform shape, Magistral is designed for high-density growing environments, thus increasing yield per hectare. 

In the mini-romaine segment the company is introducing Winbee F1 (NUN 6549 F1), a variety recommended for spring growing with high resistance to tip burn. In this respect, Del Espino revealed that they are working to round off the annual cycle with a new variety for winter. 

With a view to marketing in the Little Gem segment, the new variety from Nunhems® for the winter is the NUN 6806 F1. With this variety, BASF’s vegetable seeds business is complementing Thicket F1 and Thespian F1, two very hardy and versatile varieties that round off the annual growing cycle and consolidate the breed as a benchmark in this type of lettuce. All of them are resistant to mildew and aphids.   

Higher quality Iceberg lettuces

The Iceberg lettuce is one of the company’s hallmarks and its big showpiece in this segment, and this season it is introducing three new varieties: NUN 1212 F1, NUN 1228 F1 and NUN 1232 F1, for autumn, winter and spring respectively. “With these new varieties we are bringing even higher quality in terms of plant formation; these varieties are suitable for mechanized harvesting thanks to their uniform shape and we have even improved the post-harvest performance,” explains Del Espino, adding that they are also resistant to mildew and aphids. Nunhems® is thus offering the sector a range of varieties that will help them to improve their yield per hectare. 

 These three varieties join Melosa F1, which has shown how well it adapts to summer growing, performing extremely well in terms of bolting and tip burn in extreme conditions, and Goldiva F1, which has performed outstandingly in January harvests thanks to its good plant formation, calibre and resistance in the field, allowing a wide harvesting window.  

Concepts for consumers Nunhems® is taking a big step forward in the lettuce market to attract consumers by introducing new concepts that put an emphasis on the clearly differentiating factors of certain varieties. An example of this is Themes F1 and Intred F1, respectively green and red Little Gems, offering retailers the chance to sell these products in twin packs that bring added colour to the traditional salad range. Meanwhile, NUN 06193 F1 and NUN 06567 F1 are two varieties that stand out for their sweeter flavour, while with Agros, Nunhems® has demonstrated its support for producers and other agents in the chain in terms of the growing need for harvest mechanization. 

But the most revolutionary concept, without a doubt, is the Chef’s Lettuce, designed for the hotel, restaurant and catering industry. With Greenglace and Rubyglace, among others, Nunhems® is introducing different types of leaves for different sandwich formats. Meanwhile, the wrap is a lettuce whose leaves form a kind of spoon shape and can be used as a base for different cold or hot toppings. Crispol F1 is one of the varieties that falls within this concept. “We have the products, and now we want to offer ideas and suggestions about how to use them in the kitchen,” says Juan Pedro Pérez. 

Spinach Nunhems® is one of the market leaders in this crop and continues to make great strides in its cultivation. The result of the company’s work is the wide range featured in its catalogue, including such well-established varieties as Hydrus F1 and Alcor F1 which allow year-round spinach production.  Some of the new varieties include Formax F1, Sculptur F1 and Crater F1, all of which stand out for their high quality. From an agricultural point of view, all of them are resistant to mildew (1-17) and have a high tolerance to leaf spot. Nunhems® is thus underlining its commitment to the sector and continues to work hand-in-hand with producers to jointly develop solutions to the key challenges facing this flourishing segment. 
About BASF At BASF, we create chemistry for a sustainable future. We combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility. The approximately 122,000 employees in the BASF Group work on contributing to the success of our customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world. Our portfolio is organized into six segments: Chemicals, Materials, Industrial Solutions, Surface Technologies, Nutrition & Care and Agricultural Solutions. BASF generated sales of around €63 billion in 2018. BASF shares are traded on the stock exchanges in Frankfurt (BAS), London (BFA) and Zurich (BAS). Further information at 
About BASF’s Agricultural Solutions division With a rapidly growing population, the world is increasingly dependent on our ability to develop and maintain sustainable agriculture and healthy environments. Working with farmers, agricultural professionals, pest management experts and others, it is our role to help make this possible. That’s why we invest in a strong R&D pipeline and broad portfolio, including seeds and traits, chemical and biological crop protection, soil management, plant health, pest control and digital farming. With expert teams in the lab, field, office and in production, we connect innovative thinking and down-to-earth action to create real world ideas that work – for farmers, society and the planet. In 2018, our division generated sales of €6.2 billion. For more information, please visit or any of our social media channels. 

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E.coli outbreak in US still not over

E.coli outbreak in US still not over, credit: leveland Clinic, Health essentials
Credit: Cleveland Clinic, Health essentials 



There is an ongoing investigation in the US into the outbreak of E.coli linked to romaine lettuce. On November 26, the CDC and FDA both published additional information regarding the investigation, which has so far affected 19 states of the country. The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and identify any additional products that may be linked to the illnesses.  No common grower, supplier, distributor, or food item that contains romaine lettuce has been identified that accounts for all illnesses. 

Thus far, there are 67 confirmed cases of the illness, with 39 hospitalisations. Six cases have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. No deaths have been reported. The last illness onset date has been extended to November 14, 2019, and, at this point in time, the outbreak has not yet been declared over. The CDC continues to advise consumers not to eat romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas region.

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Surinver intends to open up new European and international markets

Surinver sells 79,000 tons of produce a year, mainly vegetables.

The leading cooperative from Alicante has set its next target on further developing the production and marketing of stone fruit, tropical fruit and aromatic herbs.

Surinver sells 79,000 tons of produce a year, mainly vegetables.

Out of the products sold, 70% are vegetables, 7% citrus fruit, 19% other fruit and the remaining 4% is taken up by other products. As far as fresh vegetables are concerned, lettuce (mainly iceberg, endive and mini romaine) are part of its range, which will be grown as specialties in the future. Its fresh-cut and convenience food range is also noteworthy. In fresh-cuts, broccoli is its flagship product, while in convenience food its assortment includes roasted peppers, beans and sweet corn, among others.

As for distribution, 65% of its produce goes to the large-scale retail channel, 20% to industrial processors and 15% of sales are made in retail in central markets and others. In terms of foreign markets, Surinver’s medium-term commitment lies in establishing new markets in Europe, America, the Middle East and Asia, where they are already testing out the possibilities for trade.

Another project from the Alicante cooperative is the development of software to control crops and the expansion of its facilities. As regards certifications, the group is working to achieve Bio Suisse certification, which promotes the absence of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilisers in crops.

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Spotlight on lettuce at MedFEL 2016

on a people-sized scale.  MedFEL’s core objectives are to expand outlets for exhibitors and present visitors with the most relevant fruit and vegetable offering. It aims to enhance trade relations between the 43 countries within the Union for the Mediterranean.

Taking place April 26-28 at the Parc des Expositions (Exhibition Centre) in Perpignan, MedFEL 2016 will shine the spotlight on lettuces.

An international business gathering of the fruit and vegetable sector, MedFEL is France’s most important fruit and vegetable event and is organised by the Sud de France Développement and Languedoc-Roussillon Regional Council.

“For three days, Perpignan becomes the Mediterranean’s agricultural capital, bringing together the Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées regions and acting as a figurehead for France’s second largest farming region measured by surface area and number of businesses and jobs. This newly created region will also be France’s leading producer of stone fruit (49%), melons (41%) and broadleaf endives (34%) and its 2nd largest producer of tomatoes (10%),” they said in a press release.

This 8th edition will feature an increased presence for MedFEL Tech, now in its second year. By incorporating pre-production professionals, it has promoted MedFEL into the world’s finest showcase for Mediterranean fruit and vegetables.

At its 7th edition, 5,855 visitors (a rise of 10% on 2014) converged on Perpignan, including the F&V sector’s most important buyers. In addition, the 240 Mediterranean exhibitors generated more than 5,632 B2B meetings (compared with a total of 4,000 in 2014). Indisputably a top quality business convention, but on a people-sized scale.

MedFEL’s core objectives are to expand outlets for exhibitors and present visitors with the most relevant fruit and vegetable offering. It aims to enhance trade relations between the 43 countries within the Union for the Mediterranean.

“As a unique link forging closer links between the two sides of the Mediterranean, the fair fully meets the needs of producers and trading companies on both northern and southern shores. It is a platform to dialogue, do business, optimise transport and logistics operations and develop business partnerships.

“MedFEL brings together stakeholders working in the Mediterranean fruit and vegetable sector for a programme of debates on the challenges facing the industry, along with production site visits and crop forecasts (apricot, peach, melon, plum and apple).“

For more info: MedFEL

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Innovation transforms the lettuce landscape

Knox extends the shelf life of lettuce by 2 days.

Nothing beats the freshness of fresh lettuce, and fresh-cut bagged lettuce has gained considerable ground in recent years. However, the pinking on the edges poses a problem. In response to this, the breeders at Rijk Zwaan – who are continually working on innovations and improvements to existing products – set out in search of a nature-based solution. They developed a research method and tested the extent of discolouration in hundreds of lettuce heads. And then they had a breakthrough: the researchers found a plant with no discolouration even after three days. Extensive laboratory and practical tests have confirmed this unique trait.

Crossing into varieties

It appeared to be a recessive trait and breeders set to work to investigate its inheritance pattern. Once techniques such as genetic markers had provided certainty, it was time for the next step and the breeders initiated back-crossing into various lettuce types as quickly as possible. Finally, after a decade of continuous research and development, the breeders presented six varieties with the KNOX gene: Cos, Batavia, Iceberg, butterhead, Salanova® Crispy and Salanova® Butter.

A bright future for lettuce

KNOX was officially launched onto the market in September 2015 during the Rijk Zwaan Leafy Event, and the KNOX varieties were on display in the demo field in Fijnaart immediately afterwards. Visitors were very interested in the concept. All the enquiries from growers and processing companies are currently being evaluated so that widespread trials can start in 2016. Thanks to KNOX, the future of lettuce looks even brighter. Needless to say, the assortment of varieties will gradually be extended over the coming years to eventually make a KNOX version available for every favourite.

“KNOX extends the shelf life of lettuce by 2 days”

According to Bauke van Lenteren, Convenience Manager at Rijk Zwaan, KNOX responds to an important need among processors. “Thanks to KNOX, fresh-cut lettuce does not always need low-oxygen packaging. This reduces costs and gives processors more options when blending . Furthermore, it eliminates the unpleasant smell associated with opening low-oxygen packaging.” Combining the benefits for the processing industry with the advantages for retailers – better inventory management and less waste – reveals the true scope of KNOX: a more sustainable chain in which this groundbreaking innovation will hopefully stimulate consumers to purchase and hence eat lettuce more often. “After all, the KNOX benefits ultimately create a better consumer experience too.”

“Result of thorough research”

Rijk Zwaan researchers Johan Schut and Kees van Dun were closely involved in the development of KNOX. “It was a severe test of our patience sometimes. When we conducted a screening using wet filtration paper, we noticed that the exposed edges of the lettuce produced a pinkish colour upon contact. But unfortunately none of the leaf discs from our genetic material showed any deviations. We then hit on the idea that the plant might need to be a little older so we decided to use a batch of 10,000 plants grown to maturity.”

“In the test, one of the discs showed significantly less discolouration. The plant was retrieved and thankfully it produced seeds quite easily so breeding work could start soon afterwards. And the results of the first ‘bag trials’ were positive, too. The fact that it was a recessive trait made it a bit more difficult to cross it into commercial material. In order to be able to demonstrate the trait when heterozygous there was an immediate need for a genetic marker, which was a considerable challenge in view of lettuce’s large genome. Genomic breeding and bioinformatics were just starting to gain ground at that time so, supported by these disciplines, molecular biology was able to develop the marker entirely in-house.”

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Japan plans fully robotic lettuce farm by 2017

Capable of supplying 30,000 heads of lettuce a day, Japanes company Spread says its 4,800m2 ‘large-scale vegetable factory’ will be “fully automated from seeding to harvest.”

Kyoto-based firm Spread plans to open what has been dubbed the world’s first fully robotic farm.

Capable of supplying 30,000 heads of lettuce a day, the company says its 4,800m2 ‘large-scale vegetable factory’ will be “fully automated from seeding to harvest.” This complete automation of the cultivation process will slash labour costs in half, it said in a press release.

Focused on global expansion, Spread hopes to extend its production to 500,000 heads of lettuce per day in five years “and will continue to expand our vegetable factory business domestically and internationally.”

Founded in 2006, in Kameoka in Kyoto, Spread already operates what it calls the world’s largest vegetable factory using artificial lighting, which grows four types of lettuce for a total 21,000 heads per day. It provides year-round supply to about 2,000 stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kansai region via the brand “Vegetus”.

Spread produces several types of lettuce under the brand name “Vegetus” (its brand for vegetables cultivated in its vegetable factories) and says it sells them to department stores, major grocery stores, hotels, restaurant, and amusement parks around Japan.

Construction of the vertical farm – at a full investment of up to about 2 million yen (€14.6m) – is due to start in Kizugawa, Kyoto, next spring with the first shipments in summer 2017. From the estimated production capacity of 10 million heads of lettuce a year, Spread estimates annual sales of about 1 million yen.

Environmentally friendly features of the ‘next-generation’ factory are to include recycling of 98% of the water used for cultivation and a system of environmental control making the factory extremely energy efficient.

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Spain exporting more fruit, less tomatoes and lettuce

Spanish exports of fruit and vegetables were up 3.6% in volume and 3.4% in value this January compared to the last one, with a volume of 1.28 million tons and value of €1.14 million.

Spain’s orange exports lift 23% this January compared to the first month of 2014

fepex export jan figs.png
Spanish exports of fruit and vegetables were up 3.6% in volume and 3.4% in value this January compared to the last one, with a volume of 1.28 million tons and value of €1.14 million. But for vegetables alone, Spain’s exports were actually down 2% in both volume and value – to 620,219 tons and €619.4 million respectively – due to a fall in trade in the country’s main two vegetable exports: tomatoes and lettuce.

Fepex, the Spanish federation of associations of producers and exporters of fruit, vegetables, flowers and live plants, said it was concerned that both the value and volume had dropped for vegetables, “because it affects crops such as tomato and lettuce which are of major social and economic importance for the sector in Spain.”

Using Spanish government figures, Fepex estimates tomato exports were down 12.7% in volume and 6.6% in value to 136,072 tons and €152 million respectively, while lettuce was down 9.4% in volume and 2.6% in value, to 93,906 tons and €87.8 million. And while cucumber was up 11% to 98,257 tons, it was down 26% in value.

Spanish fruit exports

Fepex also reported the following export figures for this January:

  • Mandarin up 3.5% to 272 676 tons
  • Orange up 23% to 243,242 tons
  • Lemon up 12% 61,218 tons
  • Persimmon up 10% to 16,542 tons
  • Strawberry up 24% more to 8,827 tons
  • Avocado up 30% to 8,028 tons

Read Fepex press release (in Spanish)



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Fruca: 50,000 tons of melons and 110 million heads of lettuce

The Murcian group is maintaining its melon crop plans for the spring, with the aim of exporting about 50,000 tons. Meanwhile, it continues to diversify its supply, which includes 15,000 tons of Galia melons, 12,000 of the yellow variety, 7,000 Cantaloupe and 2,000 Charentais. Their piel de sapo melon exports come to just 2,000 tons of highly selected and half-size melons, between 1 and 2 kg per piece, and with more than 12º Brix. Their sole destination is Northern Europe. Their watermelon range is also one of the widest, with white seeded varieties, yellow and red fleshed, black seedless, mini blacks and whites, with or without seeds. “We supply the whole of Europe and Russia, with some going overseas to the UAE, for example,” explains their sales manager Jose Canovas. 
Their supply of lettuce comes to 110 million pieces from 2,500 ha of crops. 

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Peregrín has new 16,000 m2 facilities


Peregrín, the Agrarian Transformation Society (SAT in Spanish) based in Pulpí (Almería) that grows and sells horticultural products, has opened a new facility with 16,000 m2 of covered area. With this, the company plans to diversify its activity into other lines of business and to add new products to its range. After undertaking a major investment, the company now has modern infrastructures that enable it to continue to increase its production capacity, incorporating the latest technology throughout the building in the areas of handling, packaging, sales and offices.   Together with their lettuce specialties, which include iceberg, baby, Romaine, endive and oak leaf, as well as garlic, Peregrín’s range of produce also has radishes, pomegranates, artichokes, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach and several varieties of melon.
Peregrín have handling centers in Pulpí, Las Pedroñeras (Cuenca) and Santaella (Córdoba), and their grower partners have crops in Córdoba, Málaga, Cuenca, Almería, Murcia and Albacete. The company, which was founded by a family, has a turnover of 60 million euros and employs 400 workers. They have over 25 years’ experience in producing and distributing garlic and lettuce, although the family business dates back to the 1930s with three generations that have since taken over the running of the company. 
Commercially, they distribute their products under the Gold and La Reine brands, selling 60 million kilos, with an export percentage of 65%.
Recently, Peregrín has renewed its corporate identity with a new website and logo with the slogan Sunny Thinkin’. The website is very consumer-focused, giving tips and recipes, plus their entire catalog of products and their availability. Along with this strong multimedia commitment, some of Peregrín’s staff explain through videos how the company’s various departments operate.