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British strawberry cultivation stimulated with new hybrid varieties: here is one worth the attention

“The UK market for strawberries is huge. At Elsoms, all of our strawberry varieties are hybrid, seed grown and tested 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 that are first tested in the UK to ensure customer success. The company uses the latest plant breeding technology for its own breeding program. Elsoms has recently focused on the UK strawberry market.

Soraya F1

Elsoms has partnered with Dutch seed company ABZ Seeds to develop a strawberry portfolio for the UK, with Soraya (F1, hybrid) currently the icing on the cake. Soraya has been specially developed for both summer and winter cultivation and thrives well in glass greenhouses with LED lighting. This variety yields 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 of ABZ including F1 Estavana for outdoor cultivation in goten and F1 Rowena for open ground cultivation.

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

Vegetative propagation or cultivation from seed?

“While vegetative propagation is more common for strawberries, working directly from seed offers many benefits for both the grower and distributor,” Claire says. “First, the logistics of loading seeds are simpler than those of loading fresh planting material, especially in the wake of Brexit which has complicated imports into the UK. With fresh plants, every extra day in Port due to phytosanitary certification or port delays can cause unnecessary stress and increase mortality rates. Loading seeds involves much less risk.”

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

UK strawberry market is difficult to enter

Local strawberries traditionally hit the market in June or July, but growers and traders in the UK have since changed that with the introduction of seed carriers, making UK strawberries available as early as March through autumn. Elsoms works with growers to supply strawberries year-round with the addition of Soraya to the market.

Before reaching consumers, the fruit must first be accepted by the supermarkets themselves, which have strict specifications regarding its shape, size, taste and color. To ensure that the growers can get their products on the shelves of the supermarkets, Elsoms works diligently on the selection of varieties approved by the supermarkets. In 2021, Elsoms started benchmarking, which involves sending weekly coded samples that are assessed by the technical manager for weight, shelf life, disease, color, taste, etc.

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