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Dutch greenhouse cherries: quality can take on competition of outdoor cultivation

For thirteen years now, Kwekerij de Lieshof has been cultivating Dutch greenhouse cherries. The season is now over, and due to strong competition from outdoor cultivation, it wasn't too good. Grower Christ Biemans still sees chances though. "In the coming years, we will switch to later varieties. Prices are better for quality cherries at the end of the season." 

Thirteen years ago, the bell pepper plants in nursery De Lieshof's greenhouse were exchanged for cherry trees. Christ and Anny Biemans thought it would be a good choice to switch to a more quiet cultivation in old age. Now cultivation is flourishing, but it hasn't always been quite like that. In year three, just when the family thought they got the hang of things, the entire harvest was destroyed by the vine weevil. Still, they decided to continue, and now they're able to control the insect entirely organically.

Looks a bit odd: trees in a greenhouse

The old bell pepper harvest trolleys are used for the cherry harvest

The last cherries of the season

With the heating pipes from the bell pepper cultivation, the greenhouse can be heated during a cold spring
Quality product
Through the years, the cultivation has been optimized, and the quality of the cherries is excellent. The cherries enter the market through Fruitmasters, and a part is sold in-house. The nursery is open 6 days a week. "People often return," Anny says. "Even if they're more expensive than cherries from open field cultivation. We notice that people come here for quality. They say they would rather have these cherries once, than other ones three times." 

Quality cherries

Saturated market
Yet, financially speaking the past season wasn't too good. Contrary to last year, heating wasn't necessary, which brought down the costs. In addition, due to the mild weather, harvesting could be done ten days earlier than in other years. However, that also caused the outdoor cultivation to get going early, which put prices under pressure. Increased quality of outdoor cultivation, for instance through the use of canopies, has also influenced pressure on the market. "It wasn't much," Christ concludes. "In terms of kilos things went well, but the market is saturated. Quality alone won't save you in that case." Yields of the early varieties were particularly disappointing. The late varieties, which are in production when outdoor cultivation already starts, yielded the most revenue in the past few years. "Those are very strong, quality-wise, and you get more kilos from them," Christ explains. "The early market is difficult, only interesting for a few people. You've got to have a feel for it." That's why the company will focus more on these late varieties in the coming years. 

In addition to cultivation, Christ is involved with Naktuinbouw as an inspector, and they open up De Lieshof for tours. That way they want to show a positive side of horticulture. They were already doing that when there were still bell peppers in the greenhouse. "There is more interest in the cherries though," Anny notices - that also has something to do with the growing social interest in food.

During the season, regular tours are given at the company. The hall has been furnished for this purpose

It's all about cherries.

The company also keeps innovating. They have recently started working with American pollen. By sprinkling that onto tray boards during blossom time, the late varieties set better. "We keep learning. Now we even go so far as to cut away entire branches, something presumed to be impossible. But in the greenhouse, you just have to. A colleague started doing it, and it turned out to work." Knowledge about cultivation is shared with other growers, because the acreage of cherries under glass has increased bit by bit. "We don't want others to have to go on the same quest as we have."

Apart from cherry cultivation, Christ and Anny Biemans grow wild peaches, plums and apricots to sell in-house, and vegetables for their own use. "It has indeed turned out to be a quiet cultivation, but not really a quiet old age."

Kersenkwekerij de Lieshof
Christ&Anny Biemans
Liesstraat 97
4838 GS Breda
[email protected]
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