Seed World

Hazera Builds on Its Past to Invest in China

Vegetable seed company Hazera reports that is has recently started breeding activities with China in mind. Mark van der Zouwen, Hazera’s global cucurbits product manager, provides an overview of recent developments.

“With our vast experience as a solid base, our ambition is to incorporate the needs and types [of cucurbits] for the Chinese market in our programs,” van der Zouwen says. “If we want to be a global specialist, we must be present in this growing market that is the biggest worldwide and very open to innovation. Chinese cultivation and consumption are quite different from other regions. So we must … respect the needs and traditions of the Chinese while bringing innovation.”

What will the cucumber future look like for Hazera?

“We will further extend our breeding activities to all important regions for this worldwide crop,” van der Zouwen says. “Our rich gene pool will be used to create genetic diversity finetuned to the major production areas.

“Disease resistances, especially to root and viral diseases, will be crucial and could be a way to avoid costly grafting. We’ll adapt our varieties to effective high yield growing techniques. And last, but not least, we will develop products responding to the needs of the entire fresh produce chain.”

Van der Zouwen says the aim is to look for possible innovations to turn bulk products into products that offer better convenience and superior added value to consumers. “After all they are the ones who consume the final product and for whom we are working every day,” he says.

A Look Back

Hazera stood at the cradle of game-changing improvements in cucumber genetics, especially in mini cucumber. While it is continuing these improvements, the company is now embracing other types, conquering new markets and exploring new marketing possibilities.

Cucumbers come in a wide range of types, from 10-centimeter baby cucumbers for snacking to the well-known 30-centimeter long cucumbers for non-heated or high-tech heated greenhouses, with mini cucumbers, slicers, pickling types and a wide variety of Asian types in between.

“Hazera’s heritage started in mini cucumber, that are mostly grown in non-heated greenhouses in the Mediterranean region, in the Middle East, Central Asia and in the Americas as well,” says van der Zouwen, noting that today mini cucumbers are grown as well in heated greenhouses in North America and northern Europe. “Hazera now covers the complete range.

“We have introduced many breakthrough innovations since the 1980s. For example, strong improvements in fruit quality (uniform shape and colour), drastic yield improvement, adaptability to different growing conditions and more recently long shelf life. In the early 80s, we also started specializing in the long type for non-heated greenhouses, mostly in the Mediterranean region.”

It was there that the company introduced similar innovations, including extended shelf life (many remember the Suprami variety) and most recently varieties combining resistances to powdery mildew and virus diseases such as CVYV and CYSDV.

In the mini types, Hazera reports it’s now in the Top 3 breeding companies, with varieties that are well adapted to the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Central American markets.

“Our market shares in mini are growing steadily, and we have extended our breeding activities, locating them in the very middle of these regions,” van der Zouwen says. “Beside successful varieties for spring-summer like the Bereket and Dennis, we’ve now launched new varieties for the more stressful cool season as successors to Cohiba. A very interesting development is the midi cucumber for heated greenhouses like our spring-autumn variety Nikifor that is giving high yield and fruit quality, for example in Poland where high-tech growers are using it.”

Recently, Hazera’s breeding has also been preparing a strong pipeline in baby cucumber, featuring fruits of 8-12 centimeters, which gained popularity in many markets where healthy snacking and convenience are booming.

The long type is getting very much in focus again, boosted by new breeding activities in Spain. Here, Hazera recently launched the success variety Batallón for Almeria and the Granada region.

“This is a winter variety with excellent color, lenghth and shelf life and resistance to viruses,” van der Zouwen says. “The developments in long cucumber breeding in Spain will certainly have a positive consolidation in other regions with similar growing conditions, such as Greece, Mexico, Oceania and South Africa.”