International seed companies are throwing open the doors of their research farms in Murcia this week and inviting growers and distributors to discover the latest innovations in lettuce and leafy vegetables.
The open days, which will take place under strict Covid-19 prevention measures, will feature practical demonstrations as well as a combination of face-to-face and digital sessions where growers can learn about new varieties of iceberg, romaine, little gem, lollo rosso, oak leaf, rocket, lamb’s lettuce, spinach, and other speciality lettuces.
Ramiro Arnedo, Meridiem Seeds, Bejo, BASF, Rijk Zwaan, Vilmorín, Syngenta and HM Clause are the main Spanish and international seed companies hosting the open days.
Of the more than 35,000ha of lettuce production in Spain, around 16,000ha are located in Murcia.
According to grower-exporter association Proexport the region accounted for 73 per cent of total lettuce exports from Spain in 2019, as well as 40 per cent of endives, 70 per cent of spinach, 89 per cent of celery and 70 per cent of cabbages.
“We are, without doubt, the garden supplying health to Spain and Europe,” said Javier Soto, president of Proexport’s lettuce producer arm.
“The consumer values products and varieties that provide flavour, nutritional properties, textures, shapes and attractive colours.
“But the really difficult thing is to combine all this with what farmers and companies need in the field: productivity, sustainability, resistance to pests and diseases, adaptation to the climate of the area, ease of mechanical harvesting, homogeneity.
“We need natural biotechnological developments, that is, improved seeds that help us achieve it.”
However, Soto warned that low prices threatened to cut investment in research and development.