As a major player in the babyleaf segment, for the past decade Rijk Zwaan has been harbouring a desire to add rocket to its already extensive assortment – and it is now turning that desire into reality. This year, the vegetable breeding company is launching a range of innovative rocket varieties under the Rocketeerz label. Rijk Zwaan presents the first three varieties – which set themselves apart in terms of innovativeness, disease resistances and harvest reliability – during the Open Field Days in Cartagena, Spain, from 12-17 February 2018.
Such varieties are in great demand among customers, says Mark Charlesworth, Crop Coordinator at Rijk Zwaan: “The market for this babyleaf crop is growing because the product is perfectly aligned with the convenience trend. Besides that, consumers love its peppery, nutty flavour. But although the rocket market is expanding, the development of new varieties has been lagging behind.” The market has been dominated for years by companies in Italy, where the origins of rocket lie. Innovation was not a priority for them – but Rijk Zwaan is now set to change things with the launch of Rocketeerz.
Wild and cultivated types
Each of the varieties under the Rocketeerz label has good seed germination strength, extensive mildew resistances, a longer shelf life and an extended growing season. The vegetable breeding company is clearly focusing on providing growers around the world with a broad and reliable assortment. Frank Roelofs, Crop Manager Rocket: “We’re developing both wild and cultivated types. They have different origins; the wild types of the Diplotaxis family have the most deeply incised leaves and the most pronounced peppery taste. That’s the common type in Europe. Meanwhile, the cultivated rocket type is called Eruca. Its leaves are more rounded and it has a milder flavour. This is the standard type in South America. We’re striving to innovate in both types of rocket, to add value for the market.”
Three varieties available
The first three varieties will become available this year, starting with Sinope RZ and Themisto RZ. “These are wild types with incised leaves, a good flavour and extensive resistances. In response to growers’ wishes, they can also be tunnel-grown in the winter months in moderate climates,” adds Charlesworth. These will be followed by Sparkle RZ which, as the name suggests, is a dazzlingly good and also innovative variety. Roelofs: “It is a variety of the Eruca type, with the characteristic taste of rocket but spinach-shaped leaves. As a result, it’s visually distinct from other rocket varieties.” All three varieties have been extensively trialled, both by growers and in collaboration with vegetable processing companies.
The range won’t stay limited to this trio of varieties for long. Frank Roelofs and Mark Charlesworth both confirm that chain partners can expect to see more unique varieties added to the Rocketeerz label over the coming years. The Rocketeerz name symbolises the company’s pioneering quest for innovation. “All the variety names will have a link to space, just like Sparkle RZ. With this breeding programme, Rijk Zwaan really is aiming for the sky – in every sense of the word!”
Source: Rijk Zwaan