Cultivar Trials at Hargreaves Plants
Soft Fruit Trials
Research and Development is at the heart of Hargreaves Plants' business strategy. As a direct result of dedicated trials, the company is able to bring exciting new soft fruit and asparagus cultivars to growers in the UK, Europe and across the world. The soft fruit trial site is based near Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, and asparagus trials are located in West Norfolk, where most of the company's field propagation takes place.
Replicated trials of over 100 Fragaria selections are held at the soft fruit site. Almost 300 individual asparagus lines have also been analysed. The germplasm is sourced from breeders world-wide from private and publicly-funded breeding programs.
The soft fruit site is approximately 4 hectares in size and currently has 1 hectare of replicated trials and 2 hectares of seedling plots. All fruit crops are grown to commercial standards and plants are scored for growth habit, tolerance of pest and diseases and cropping season. The fruit is scored for colour, flavour, shelf life, firmness or cohesion and average berry weight. Each breeder receives an annual report showing the season's results for their selected potential varieties.
From these trials, successful varieties such as the ever-bearer strawberry Buddy, primocane raspberries Polka and Erika and the red dessert gooseberry Xenia have given Hargreaves Plants a strong foothold in the marketplace. Liaison with marketing groups and leading supermarkets ensure that the parameters for selection are in-keeping with consumer trends.
Blackberries are becoming increasingly popular as a 'super food' crop with supermarkets and growers. Hargreaves Plants is involved in the development of some of the world's first primocane blackberry types. A number of advantages are demonstrated by the primocane blackberry, such as 'grower-friendly' plant habit and the mild, sweet flavour in the fruits. Plants tend to have an erect or semi-erect habit, are thorn-free or with a few thorns, and fruit tends to be much larger than current well-known floricane varieties. Another advantage is the production of fruit in the first year of growth, unlike the floricane varieties currently on offer where there is a vegetative period prior to the cropping year. Reuben blackberry was selected on this site.
Hargreaves Plants are always interested to hear from breeders who would like to have their selections in trials in the UK, and fruit companies or plant nurseries who are looking to increase their product range of berry fruit plants throughout Europe.