Following the strain selection of tomatoes, LAVA has also started the segmentation and a strain list of bell peppers. “We want the blocks to be as uniform as possible at the various auctions,” says Raf de Blaiser from LAVA.
For years, tomatoes have been divided into various types at LAVA, and for each type, a limited number of strains is allowed. Now, the organisation will start a similar division for bell peppers. “In bell peppers, the division of types already exists: block, sweet pointed pepper, and red, yellow, green and orange,” says Raf. “By limiting strains, we want to guarantee the uniformity of the blocks at various auctions. Moreover, by choosing a certain variety, cultivators get the chance to offer the majority of their productions under the Flandria label.”
Based on thorough strain research
The selection is based on practical value research at the experimental gardens. “The experimental gardens in Meerle and St-Katelijne-Waver have standard varieties and new strains. We are testing them for plant characteristics, but also for the quality of the fruit: parameters such as colour, gleam and shape, but also for sensitivity to inner rot, for example,” Raf continues. “That is done by people at the experimental garden and at the quality department of the auctions. We then see if there are strains we do not want because of the pale colour, for example: you do not want a bell pepper that is a paler red in the red block.” Flavour is also a factor. “The VCBT (Flemish centre for storing horticultural products) measures things such as hardness and colour depth, and the PCG in Kruishoutem conducts taste tests.”
Cultivators know how best to cultivate
Based on research, a list of allowed varieties is drawn up. Previously, LAVA also worked with an expenses book for the cultivation. That has been overtaken by requirements such as GlobalGAP by now. “We maintain product specifications, in which we indicate the requirements for the fruits. Cultivators know that, but it is their responsibility to meet them. I also think cultivators personally know best how to cultivate the product.”
Does LAVA receive responses to the strain segmentation? Not right away. “But I do think it is noticeable on the market that a buyer of Flandria bell pepper might receive product from a different supplier upon a next delivery, but he will receive product that is similar in quality. To us, and the quality managers of the auctions, that is a daily task: ensuring Flandria has high-quality, in order to have confidence in the product. That is important in order to sell a product. The best proof for us, after all, is not getting bad prices from the market with our product.” There are responses to the segmentation from the seed houses. “We work with knock-out criteria: all varieties have to reach a minimum level for certain points. If you cannot reach those levels, you are out. We naturally talked about that, but in the end it also creates clarity for the agriculturalists. They consider those points when improving the seeds.”
Besides the strain selection in aubergines, LAVA has also drawn up a list for cucumbers in three cultivation periods. Strain diversity is also limited for aubergines, as is the case with leeks. “That is even more complex, because it is open air cultivation, and because five cultivations are involved.” Courgettes are on the list for the future. “In bell peppers we have now chosen for block segmentation. In future, when areas further develop, we can also work with this system for pointed and snack,” Raf concludes.
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