Cross-pollination in cucumber cultivation creates more value

The cucumber is a popular vegetable. The best sold vegetable in the Netherlands in 2021, both in weight as in price per product. ‘To keep meeting the increasing demand, the cucumber acreage of Growers United will be increased from 40 to 57 hectare in 2023,’ Wim van den Berg, Marketing Manager at Growers United explains. But even if things go well, there is always room for improvement. Where can we increase value when cultivating cucumbers?

Cucumber immensely popular in the Netherlands and beyond
This vegetable not only ranks high in the Netherlands, but also in neighbouring countries like Germany, the United Kingdom and Belgium. The GroentenFruit Huis states that the total sales in both 2021 and 2022 totalled at 565 million kilos of which 47% was exported to Germany, 14% to the UK and 11% to Belgium. Seen from the other side, Germany imported 37% of its cucumbers from the Netherlands and the UK an impressive 49%. And what about the division in population groups, when checking cucumber sales? This vegetable sells well across all groups; from a two-person household to families with children, and from young singles to pensioners.

Value increase through introduction of more variants
Even if things go well for the cucumber, there is always room for improvement. Where can we increase value? Research by IRI NL shows that between 2021 and 2022 regular cucumbers hardly saw any increase in their sales per kilo. Snacking tomatoes on the other hand, showed a substantial growth in sales of 27%.

‘To create extra value on the shelves, the variety in cucumbers should be increased, similar to the broad range of tomatoes we supply,’ says Wim. ‘This popular vegetable not only shows variation in size and organic cultivation, but tomato cultivation also focuses on taste and convenience. Think of the snacking tomatoes or cherry-vine tomatoes, just to name a few.’

Increased freshness through improved protection in greenhouses and in stores
When it comes to shelf life, innovation can provide solutions too. The fact that cucumbers are often wrapped in plastic, has everything to do with their sensitivity to ethylene. This gas is emitted by other fruit and vegetables. And as soon as a cucumber comes into contact with it, its shelf life reduces considerably. Wrapping these vegetables in foil creates a protective layer that adds an extra shelf life of 5 to 7 days. But wouldn’t it be great if innovation could prevent using foil in the future?

Next to improved protection against ethylene, protection against viruses is another important reason to start cultivating new variants. Through plant breeding, the resistance of these cucumbers to harmful external factors can be increased.

Using knowledge and experience gained from tomato cultivation
‘Due to the recent virus pressure in tomato cultivation, several tomato growers transferred to cucumber cultivation,’ Wim explains. ‘Tomato growers are familiar with the process of plant breeding and introducing improved variants. The knowledge and experience that they gained from cultivating tomatoes can now be used to successfully grow cucumbers.’

At Growers United, every cucumber grows on a so-called high-wire system. Previously, this system was exclusively used in tomato cultivation. Instead of growing on the ground, the cucumbers plants are now climbing upwards, so the cucumbers are hanging free. Not only does this method increase freshness, but it also improves taste. In general, a cucumber lasts 30 days: from its flower to its consumption. But when using the high-wire method, cucumbers can already be harvested in 15 days instead of in 22 days. This frees up 7 valuable days, so the journey from the greenhouse to the consumer’s kitchen can be finished in record time.

Growers United does everything to guarantee optimal freshness, quality, and taste. Curious to learn how we keep inspiring and innovating? Visit more information or get in touch, or +31 (0)174 238 000.