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BASF enlarges its lettuce portfolio with more resistant varieties to cover the entire cycle

BASF enlarges its lettuce portfolio with more resistant varieties to cover the entire cycle

The agricultural seeds division, which is introducing new Little Gem, Romaine, Mini Romaine and Iceberg varieties, is also working on developing new Fusarium-resistant spinach

Between 15 and 19 February, BASF is holding a new Lettuce & Spinach Demo Field event at its facility in La Palma in Cartagena (Murcia) to showcase its new varieties and concepts in different types of lettuce and spinach. Observing strict hygiene and safety measures, technical and sales managers will be on hand to conduct personalized tours with clients as well as holding virtual meetings on request.

Once again, this year the BASF agricultural seeds division is organizing its Demo Field around a series of concepts which address current and future consumer needs. These concepts are grouped into four main sections: Taste and Appearance, uniting pleasure and flavour; Technology, focused on production efficiency solutions and including a strong commitment to mechanical harvesting; The Chef’s Lettuce, featuring varieties for use in the kitchen in sandwiches, burgers and snacks; and finally, Convenience, with user-friendly varieties that promote a healthier diet.

BASF is introducing new varieties in the different types of lettuce which meet a triple objective: completing the growing cycle in Spain, providing added resistance, and offering more versatile varieties, explains Carlos del Espino, Lettuce Account Manager at BASF. Theras* and VS15**, a new variety currently in development, are the new Little Gems, the former for an autumn-winter cycle and the latter for spring. Both are resistant to mildew and aphids and suitable for double purpose; in other words, thanks to their easy leaf removal they are ideal for sale either loose or as hearts. With these two new varieties, BASF continues to round off a range that already boasts Thicket* and Thespian, two extremely versatile Little Gems that cover the whole production cycle.

In the Mini Romaine range BASF is launching two new varieties: VS73**, in red (currently in development), and NUN 06574*, in green. The former is recommended for late autumn and winter plantings, while the latter has a longer cultivation calendar: late autumn, winter and early spring. Both stand out for their excellent shape and colour, which in the case of the red VS73** variety even reaches its innermost leaves, as well as being resistant to mildew and aphids. Meanwhile, Winbee* is the BASF variety for late winter and spring cultivation, being notable for its excellent tolerance to tip burn.

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Salanova® Teenleaf: halfway between babyleaf and mature heads

Salanova® Teenleaf: halfway between babyleaf and mature heads

Rijk Zwaan’s efficient fresh-cut salad solution for soil and hydroponic cultivation

Salanova® Teenleaf is an innovative salad concept. In terms of size, this ‘teenager’ is halfway between a babyleaf and a fully mature head of lettuce, combining the best of both worlds. These lettuce varieties are already successfully grown in high density in soil, harvested mechanically and used in all kinds of fresh-cut salad blends in the US and Australia. And now, vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan is introducing a choice of new Teenleaf varieties for high-density hydroponic production.

The Teenleaf salad concept is a spin-off from Salanova – the company’s ‘one cut, ready’ lettuce range. Bauke van Lenteren, fresh-cut specialist said: “Salanova Teenleaf is a more efficient method for the production and processing of fresh-cut salad blends. Teenleaf varieties are suitable for high-density growing, both indoors and outdoors, machine harvestable, and because they are harvested slightly later than babyleaf, they generate a higher yield. Thanks to the ‘one cut, ready’ principle they immediately separate into individual leaves. This enables fresh-cut companies to use them in appealing ready-to-eat salad blends with higher net usability and less waste than fully mature lettuce. The leaves are a little more robust than babyleaf, but still ‘forkable’ for consumers.”

Teenleaf varieties for hydroponics

As a new development, Rijk Zwaan is introducing a range of Salanova Teenleaf varieties for hydroponics, a production method that is rapidly gaining ground worldwide. Peter Sonneveld, specialist in hydroponics, said: “We’ve noticed that fresh-cut companies are looking for a clean, residue-free product that can be grown locally all year round. Hydroponics ticks all the boxes. Growers can produce Salanova Teenleaf varieties in a range of hydroponic systems. Teenleaf is ideal for machine harvesting right from the hydroponic system and produces a high annual yield in terms of kilos per square metre.” Salanova Teenleaf varieties are available in a wide choice of colours, textures and leaf shapes, so a salad blend can be mixed to suit every consumers preference: sweet and crunchy, mild and colourful, or premium and delicate.

Photo: Rijk Zwaan

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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.