Pro-Veg Seeds show diversity of crops at Open Days

In August, Pro-Veg Seeds founder and director John Burrows held an anniversary lunch for invited guests at the company’s open day site at Soham in Cambridgeshire to celebrate 30 years in business. The occasion was also marked by a number of new entries to the commercial catalogue, all of which could be viewed at the site, which is managed for the firm by Darlow’s Contract Services.

The location also allows Pro-Veg to demonstrate the full range of its diverse portfolio, including onions, carrots, baby leaf, legumes, squash and sweet corn, as well as outdoor and protected peppers, cucumbers, melons and tomatoes.

When it comes to allium crops, consultant Barrie Smith explained that Pro-Veg focus on novel types of bulb and salad onions, rather than mainstream bulb crops. “We are trying to pick slightly novel varieties, such as Karminka and Elista which are currently in the second year of NIAB onion trials.” Both are long day varieties with elliptical bulbs, and Barrie feels that the dark red-purple colour of Karminka could complement the white of Elista in a mixed pack. “They are a different animal to your round onions,” he explained. “They are long, long day varieties and they store very well. We have also produced crops of both at very high density to pack as minis, something we hope to promote further.” The company also sells the eschallion variety Zebrune, produced from its own guaranteed quality stock seed, something which Barrie says makes it the firm’s best selling onion variety at the current time.

In salad onions Pro-Veg works with two or three breeders and this year’s trials included varieties derived from both Allium cepa and A. cepa x A. fistulosum. “We have three really good varieties from a breeder in the United States,” explained Barrie. “They are cepa-fistulosum crosses and all three have been launched commercially in America, but we are trying to decide which one to progress with. For overwintered production, Gerda can be sown in August for spring harvesting.

Purple sprouting broccoli is a well established crop, but American variety Jacaranda F1 is a purple, full head type broccoli variety which is quite early to mature and which produces a good coloured head with a dense curd composed of solid florettes. The company also markets a number of Syngenta’s broccoli varieties to the amateur market in the UK, and Pro-Veg also markets Brokali varieties of sprouting broccoli, which are similar to Tenderstem types.

Sweetcorn is another crop where Pro-Veg has a strong portfolio thanks to its work with an American breeder, and Barrie highlighted three new entries to the catalogue in particular. Latte F1 is a 68-day bi-coloured synergistic Sugary Enhancer (SE) hybrid, with a high yield potential as the 19-21 cm long cobs have good tip fill. However, with customer ambiguity towards bi-coloured varieties, the yellow version Café F1 may be of more interest commercially. “We also have Moonshine F1, which we launched last year,” added Barrie. With ‘outstanding’ cold soil emergence, it produces high yields of 20 cm cobs with good tip cover and very little shank.

Primarily being trialled as an attractive ornamental option for the amateur market, Picasso F1 is a purple-leaved variety. “At this stage it has some interesting colour in it,” commented Barrie. “I don’t think other companies put on a show like this for the UK.”

As part of that diversity the company also has a range of salad and brassica varieties suitable for baby leaf production including rocket, lettuce, kale, salad rape, oak leaf and a purple pak choi.

A separate open day is held to showcase the pumpkin and squash assortment, but Barrie is particularly pleased with two ‘acorn’ type varieties of winter squash from America: Mashed Potatoes and Baked Potatoes. As the name implies, Mashed Potatoes has nearly white flesh which resembles mashed potatoes when baked and fluffed, while Baked Potatoes is more suitable for use in soups and for roasting.

As well as other edible lines, including melons and leaves, Pro-Veg also has a strong ornamental presence with its sunflowers, including dwarf pot, border and cut-flower types. A number of cut flower type sunflowers have recently been added to the catalogue, including the bi-colour variety Helios Flame F1 which has excellent vase life. Looking forward, Barrie feels that PV 17-05 will also become an invaluable addition to the range for professional and amateur growers alike.

Pro-Veg also has three wildflower mixes, of which Butterfly Mix 9947 is the most productive. A large border on the site was attracting large numbers of bees and hoverflies. “It’s beautiful and there is a range of different things in it when you get amongst it,” stressed Barrie. “It started flowering at the end of June and has just got better and better.”