All over the world soft fruit growers are covering their crops and moving their production indoors. Germany is no exception to this trend. "Protected cultivation in Germany is without a doubt on the rise, and it will keep rising in the future", says Labinot Elshani with Landgard.
At the moment, many new and exciting developments are happening in German strawberry cultivation. Landgard – Germany's largest trade organization – is leading the charge in terms of this innovation. Labinot Elshani, the person in charge of the fresh produce department of Landgard, and Volker Janssen, owner of cultivation company Frucht Janssen GbR, answered a few questions regarding the German sector.
Labinot notices a trend among growers. "One where the acreage used for covered cultivation is steadily expanding, especially with the use of greenhouses and tunnels. In general, German retailers are in favor of an extension of the German strawberry season. That is why Landgard is currently researching the possibility of having the season start earlier (starting in March). "We can even imagine a day will come where strawberries will be available in Germany year-round.”
Volker: “Protected cultivation in Germany is without a doubt on the rise, and it will keep rising in the future, especially given the fact that the quality is becoming more stable, and better ways of controlling the climate become available. There is also a demand for season extension coming from the customers. Based on the high energy costs, however, projects with lighted cultivation have not been realized in Germany yet. In other countries – namely Belgium and the Netherlands – they are a lot more advanced in this regard.”
Labinot adds: "Belgian and Dutch strawberries are mainly sold in the preseason. It is important to us to use a well-aimed trade strategy when dealing with these greenhouse strawberries, one in which the interests of both our national growers as well as the value of our product are honored in a way.”
Volker & Dominik Janssen
“This year we have a new variety called ‘Sonsation’", Volker explains, "which we rank pretty highly in terms of flavor. How the variety will develop during the cultivation phase still needs to be seen firsthand. When talking about the above-average summer temperatures of 2018 specifically, we noted that the ‘Malling Centenary’ variety performed very well. We mainly look at the flavor and the red coloring during harvest when it comes to our cultivation. Our production costs are notably higher than they are in most southern countries. We also have to deal with the prescribed certifications for German growers.”
These circumstances lead to people having to ask a higher price for their product, Janssen adds. “We also value short transportation between cultivation and retail a whole lot, allowing us to guarantee maximum quality. This is represented in our company motto as well: ‘The bitter taste of poor quality will linger long after, while the sweetness of a low price is quickly forgotten.’”
Labinot Elshani: “Our German growers pay extra attention to good-tasting and attractive varieties that people can differentiate from imported fruits. Besides that, mainly early ripening varieties are grown, among which the ‘Malling Centenary’, as Volker mentioned.”
According to Labinot, the acreage used for protected cultivation has increased in the past few years at the cost of the acreage used for open field cultivation, which has decreased as a result. "In the Rhineland region, we currently have 16 ha of greenhouse cultivation, 15 ha of covered cultivation on gutters and in tunnels and another 160 ha of open field cultivation.”
“Besides our own German production we mainly offer our trade partners Dutch, Belgian, Egyptian and Moroccan strawberries", he concludes. "Amongst our foreign growers, we also note increased attention for covered cultivation.”
For more information: