He has already put on his boots and has his knife at hand to cut the various vegetables in the field. It's Tuesday morning, September 25, 9 am, and Pieter Vermeulen, representative for Sakata in the Benelux and Scandinavia, is fully prepared for the annual open field demo days. This is his last edition as an open field man, so these demo days are something extra special.
"After five years of open field vegetables, I also needed the excitement of the glass. In the coming period I will focus entirely on the high-tech tomato cultivation to grow into it with Sakata. But when I just walk through the field, it makes me feel a bit melancholy about what I leave behind."
Pieter in the field with cauliflower variety Alston
In Europe, Sakata, originally a Japanese breeder, is relatively unknown, especially in greenhouse vegetables. We have a breeding program in snack tomatoes and in recent years Sakata has been somewhat less visible.
"It is my goal to do something about that and also to grow in this segment with Sakata." With the brown snack tomato Chocostar F1 Pieter thinks they have a good asset. "In comparison to the current market-leading variety, the Chocostar combines a higher production with a good taste."
But for now enough about tomatoes, time to go into the field. Under a bright blue sky, a first stop is made at the beetroot, the vegetable that takes center stage at Sakata this year. "The beetroot segment as a whole has been growing steadily in recent years." The Chioggia-Guardsmark is a new variety. "A beetroot that, when you slice it, shows nice, sharp white rings. With a mild sweet taste, this variety is suitable for the fresh market." Already existing, but selling very well is the Cardeal F1. "This variety has a higher brix than the other varieties in the market. This also has a positive effect on its shelf life."
From red to green. "This year we have done excellent business in spinach. A characteristic of our varieties is the stand-up position of the leaf. This makes the spinach easy to harvest." The outstanding durability in the field also stands out. "An advantage during hot summers, when you have to delay your harvest by one day, for example because of temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. Even when the harvest is delayed, the plant stays compact with short stems and a compact, flat leaf."
While Sakata is the world market leader in broccoli, the cauliflower, especially in Europe, still lags a bit behind. A variety with which Pieter is very satisfied and has high expectations of is Alston F1. "This variety did very well this year in the winter cultivation with sowing in November. The variety is ripe early."
Among the many green colors, the pumpkins stand out. "This year it was an excellent pumpkin year. We have had a gigantic harvest. In any case, it is really a growth market with increasing interest from the consumer. Cultivation in the Netherlands is also increasing."
Photo: Pieter with pumpkin variety Boomer F1. "A variety with beautiful, heavy fruits of up to 6 kilos."
Striking in the assortment is the spaghetti pumpkin, Primavera F1. Spaghetti because when the pumpkin is put into the oven, it comes out with pulp that looks like spaghetti strings. "So you can eat spaghetti from the pumpkin, as it were. That way immediately you will not suffer from any cereal allergies anymore," laughs Pieter.
Spring onion is still a relatively small cultivation in the Netherlands. However, there is growth. According to Pieter, Sakata has varieties in the assortment that can be used from the Sahara to the North Pole. An example of such a variety is Totem. "The Volkswagen Golf among the spring onions. A real bestseller that is cultivated extensively. From countries like Morocco, Senegal and Egypt to Finland; this variety actually performs everywhere."
A new variety in this segment at Sakata is Interstellar F1. A new hybrid with upright leaf, a green-blue color and a fast growing cycle. The variety is also peels easily. Just like the very latest variety, Yoda F1. "This variety is doing better under warm cultivation conditions, is very uniform and has an extra dark green-blue color thanks to a kind of wax layer on the foliage that growers like to see. Because of the narrow white shaft, Yoda F1, just like Interstellar F1, peels better, which means you can save on labor."
A third variety that Pieter highlights is Katana F1. "A variety with a faster growth, a shorter white shaft and with more green. A variety that responds to a special wish of some customers."
Also the tuber
Right at the end of the round through the field, Pieter stops for a while at the turnip Sweetbell F1. A May turnip, which, if it is up to Pieter, should quickly gain popularity in Dutch cuisine. "I really wonder why we do eat radish, but not the tubers of the Sweetbell F1. Now we sell this variety already a lot just for the leaves, but the tuber is really soft and sweet. A pity not to use it."
Later Pieter may no longer be found in the fields in his boots and with a knife, this last passionate argument shows once again that he, despite the fact that he likes the excitement of the glass, is not finished with the open field. "What could be better than when customers pick out your variety to cultivate at their company?"