Pushing year-round strawberry production in the UK with seed-grown hybrid varieties

“The UK market for strawberries is massive. At Elsoms, all of our strawberry varieties are hybridized, grown from seed and trialed in the UK,” says Claire Taylor, technical coordinator at Elsoms.

Elsoms is an independent seed specialist and plant breeder based in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom. Elsoms has an extensive portfolio of seeds from Bejo and Holland Select, all of which are first trialled in the UK to ensure customer success.

The company also employs the latest in plant breeding technology for its own breeding program.

Elsoms has partnered with Dutch seed company ABZ Seeds to develop a strawberry portfolio for the United Kingdom, with Soraya (F1, hybrid) currently the feather in its cap.

Soraya has been bred specifically for both summer and winter production and thrives in LED-lit glass greenhouses. This variety produces roughly 1.25-1.5 kg/per plant with an average fruit size of 16-35 g and a °Brix of 8-11. Elsoms also has the exclusive rights to two additional commercial varieties from ABZ including F1 Estavana for outdoor gutter production and F1 Rowena for open field production.

“We are working with ABZ Seeds because all they do is strawberries and they are so passionate about what they do. The passion there is very similar to Elsoms,” notes Claire. “We’ve been doing trials here in the UK for roughly three years. All of our varieties are hybridized and raised from seed rather than runners.”

Vegetative propagation or producing from seed?

Whereas vegetative propagation is more common for strawberries, working directly from seed provides many advantages to both the grower and distributor, they say. "First of all, the logistics of shipping seeds are simpler than those of shipping fresh plant material, especially in the wake of Brexit which has complexified imports into the UK.

With fresh plants, every additional day at port due to phytosanitary certification or port delays can cause undue stress to the plants and increase the mortality rates. Comparatively, shipping seeds is much lower risk."

“When a grower orders plants from us, we ship the seeds in from ABZ seeds and have them raised by Ball Colegrave. Colegrave then delivers the plants to the grower. The germination rate is 90%, so we had a 10% buffer when ordering the seeds,” explains Claire.

With the introduction of Everbearers, UK strawberries can be available from as early as March into the Autumn. Elsoms are working with growers to then produce year-round strawberries with the addition of Soraya into the marketplace.

To ensure that growers can get their products on supermarket shelves, Elsoms is sending weekly coded samples to be assessed by the technical manager for weight, shelf life, disease, colour and taste.

Source: Fresh Plaza