Sprout breeding on the button


New varieties of Syngenta Brussels sprouts are proving better able to cope with effects of climatic changes and provide solutions to severe economic challenges facing growers.

With the serious implications of last summer’s heatwave on crops only now becoming apparent, varieties such as the new Nimbus have fared far better in preventing disease and now performing in the packhouse, highlights Syngenta Technical Sales Manager, Harry Twinberrow.

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That’s been particularly evident in other varieties with close button spacing, where disease pressure has been especially high in tightly packed leaves.

“Varieties with good disease resistance such as Nimbus, Martinus and Trimstar, have really stood out for yield and quality of buttons,” he reports.

Independent variety trials by the Allium & Brassica Centre have shown Martinus and Trimstar were two of the best overall for gross yield; marketable yield and disease tolerance. For the premium market timing, Martinus (below) had a greater percentage of marketable yield on 1st January. 

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Now, with the rapidly shifting trend to greater climatic extremes, the resilience of varieties to cope will be an ever-increasing factor in growers’ choice, Harry advises.

Stronger rooting of varieties such as Martinus and Nimbus could help to make better use of available moisture and to scavenge more effectively for nutrients in the soil.

With Brussels sprouts being one of the highest nitrogen input brassica crops, any improvement in nutrient efficiency could deliver valuable savings for growers, especially at today’s fertiliser costs, he suggests. Improved nitrogen utilisation and reduced waste, combined with higher marketable yields, will also benefit the crop’s carbon footprint.

Trials have also revealed that the stronger rooting can prove invaluable in keeping the crop standing in high winds, particularly in wet winter soil conditions. Batavus and Martinus showed virtually zero lodging, when over 40% of some industry standard varieties had gone over.    

Good holding capability is expected to be particularly beneficial this season, enabling growers to exploit later season opportunities when Brussels sprout supply may be short, advocates Harry.

“Syngenta Brussels sprout varieties are renowned for holding well in the field, providing growers with extra flexibility in marketing timing and ensuring maximum utilisation of the crop. Martinus and Nimbus have further reinforced that reputation.”

Growers that have invested in packhouse automation - to reduce reliance on labour - have also found the variety Trimstar is further boosting productivity; the slightly elongated shape of the sprouts ensures buttons line up on the belt more evenly for faster throughput. Adding new varieties well suited to mechanical systems ensures growers can utilise their investment for the full season.

“The Syngenta Brussels sprout breeding programme continues to innovate and develop varieties such as Nimbus (below) that not only yield well and with high quality, but also with traits for greater reliability and agronomic attributes to benefit growers right through the season."

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“Trialing and introducing new varieties into the farm’s cropping programme will ensure Brussels sprout growers stay at the forefront of innovation and efficiency.”     

Insta influence

A lost generation of sprout customers are set to be targeted with a Syngenta campaign to boost consumption, led by influencers on the Instagram platform.

Initiated by Syngenta’s Harry Twinberrow and instigated by renowned food industry promoters, the Pam Lloyd Agency, Insta influencers are being funded to post videos, pictures and praise for their creations in cooking up Brussels sprout dishes.

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Starting early in the New Year, the three-month campaign is seeking to get a whole new group of consumers to try sprouts and inspire them to create new culinary experiences.

“Market research has shown there’s a significant group of young people who have never ever eaten a sprout. Instagram is now the ideal way to reach and inspire them to give them a go,” believes Harry.

“Today’s Insta influencers are setting the agenda for food and culinary trends in restaurants and the home. As the leader in Brussels sprout innovation, we’re keen to expand the market for growers and assure a future generation of customers for the crop.”     

Search for ‘Syngenta Brussels sprouts’ on Instagram and follow the influencers to see some of their inspirational ideas.