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Carl Collen

BY CARL COLLEN

Lift-off for Rijk Zwaan's rocket

Vegetable breeding company adds rocket to its babyleaf assortment under the Rocketeerz label

Lift-off for Rijk Zwaan's rocket

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Rijk Zwaan has announced that 2018 will be the year it adds rocket to its extensive assortment of salad products, as it launches a range of varieties under the Rocketeerz label.

The vegetable seed specialist is presenting the first three varieties – which are said to set themselves apart in terms of innovativeness, disease resistances and harvest reliability – during the Open Field Days in Cartagena, Spain, from 12-17 February.

Such varieties are in great demand among customers, said Mark Charlesworth, crop coordinator at Rijk Zwaan.

“The market for this babyleaf crop is growing because the product is perfectly aligned with the convenience trend," he explained. "Besides that, consumers love its peppery, nutty flavour. But although the rocket market is expanding, the development of new varieties has been lagging behind.”

The market has been dominated for years by companies in Italy, where the origins of rocket lie. According to Rijk Zwaan, innovation has not been a priority for these companies – but this is set to change with the launch of Rocketeerz.

Each of the varieties under the Rocketeerz label has good seed germination strength, extensive mildew resistances, a longer shelf life and an extended growing season.

The vegetable breeding company is focusing on providing growers around the world with a broad and reliable assortment.

“We’re developing both wild and cultivated types," said Frank Roelofs, crop manager rocket at Rijk Zwaan. "They have different origins; the wild types of the Diplotaxis family have the most deeply incised leaves and the most pronounced peppery taste. That’s the common type in Europe. Meanwhile, the cultivated rocket type is called Eruca. Its leaves are more rounded and it has a milder flavour. This is the standard type in South America. We’re striving to innovate in both types of rocket, to add value for the market.”

The first three varieties will become available this year, starting with Sinope RZ and Themisto RZ.

“These are wild types with incised leaves, a good flavour and extensive resistances," noted Charlesworth. "In response to growers’ wishes, they can also be tunnel-grown in the winter months in moderate climates."

These will be followed by Sparkle RZ which, as the name suggests, is a dazzlingly good and also innovative variety.

“It (Sparkle) is a variety of the Eruca type, with the characteristic taste of rocket but spinach-shaped leaves," outlined Roelofs. "As a result, it’s visually distinct from other rocket varieties.”

All three varieties have been extensively trialled, both by growers and in collaboration with vegetable processing companies.

According to Rijk Zwaan, its rocket range won’t stay limited to this trio of varieties for long, with Roelofs and Charlesworth both confirming that chain partners should expect to see more unique varieties added to the Rocketeerz label over the coming years.

The Rocketeerz name symbolises the company’s pioneering quest for innovation.

“All the variety names will have a link to space, just like Sparkle RZ. With this breeding programme, Rijk Zwaan really is aiming for the sky – in every sense of the word!”

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