It's the start of August and the seed cultivation of spinach has already left the greenhouse at Tuinbouwbedrijf Huijser, a month earlier than usual. The seed cultivation of lettuce, of which the seeds, like that of spinach, go to breeder Rijk Zwaan, are also growing quickly and will soon follow. The greenhouses in Oud-Beijerland will then be empty for a period until lettuce is planted again on October 1 on 1.8 hectares for a Swedish supermarket. But those who think this is a calm period, are wrong. It's as dry as can be and there is a lot of work to be done on the 25 hectares of cauliflower belonging to Bas Huijser and his brother. Bas: "We are constantly irrigating."
Bas Huijser in front of his cauliflower with the greenhouses in which lettuce and spinach are grown in the background.
The last spring harvest of cauliflower was harvested under clear blue skies. It isn't easy with such high temperatures and the dust rising from the dry soil. "The last serious rain fell here in May. The land was flooded three times back then. The cauliflower suffered significantly from this. Then it got dry. Not as much of a problem as such, but it is now that the temperature is rising."
High and low points
Like peppers are known for their unpredictability in the greenhouse, this also goes for cauliflower. "The growth isn't as stable as that of lettuce in the greenhouses, for instance. The heat there sometimes causes the crops to grow a day or two faster. Cauliflower isn't as smooth, there are real high and low points. One week you can only harvest 20% of what you planted, the next 150%. You try to take this into account by planting different varieties with different growing speeds so that you have to say 'no' as little as possible to your buyers, but it's been hard this year. At the moment various plantings are coinciding, as the cauliflower that was flooded was slowed down."
The prices aren't the greatest as a result of the high temperatures. With 20 to 25 cents per cauliflower we are at a really low price. When you start to calculate and think how much time and money it costs to irrigate everything, you wonder whether it's profitable to even harvest your final spring cultivation. The quality is suffering from the heat as well at the moment. Add to this that people aren't buying cauliflower at the moment, so the demand is low."
The planting cart is ready, now we wait for the temperature to cooperate.
Continually irrigating between harvesting and planting
Whilst the last spring cabbages are being harvested, the planting of cauliflowers for the autumn is in full swing. "To be able to plant well with this heat we irrigate three times. Once before planting and twice afterwards. Every irrigation session takes nine hours, so if you imagine we're planting 1.5 hectares every day maths tells you that we're irrigating for 27 hours and are running out of time. Especially when we need to harvest in between."
The cauliflowers are struggling, but have to wait on this field until the end of August to be harvested.
The seven people employed by Tuinbouw Huijser, therefore spend almost all day irrigating. "Thankfully we're still allowed to use ground water here, although you notice the quality deteriorating. It's still increasingly water we're using. Even though we fully pumped out the basin for the greenhouse cultivation three times since May."
The doomsday scenario is that in the coming autumn there will be heavy rain. "You notice that we're not used to these extremes in the Netherlands, but we can expect them more and more as time goes on. I'd rather it's too dry than too wet. Normally you can go far with sufficient irrigation. The advantage of lower temperatures with more rain is that more people eat and buy cauliflower," concludes Bas before he goes to plant some more cauliflower between irrigation sessions, hoping for better prices in the autumn and, of course, rain.
For more information:Tuinbouwbedrijf Huijserwww.email@example.com