Wageningen in your shopping bag
You may not realise it, but many of the fruits and vegetables in your shopping bag were grown with the help of research in Wageningen. Sustainable production is playing an increasingly important role.
Take the humble tomato, for example. Dutch tomato growers are leaders in sustainability compared to their international counterparts. This is due in part to research conducted in Wageningen on the biological control if harmful insects in greenhouse cultivation, on disease-resistant crop varieties, and on reducing energy consumption in greenhouse cultivation. LED lights, for instance, use considerably less electricity than conventional lamps, which means a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. But because they also emit less heat, researchers examined the best place to hang these lights and how to adjust the climate control system accordingly
In addition, new and extra-tasty varieties have been developed on the basis of cultivation research and taste studies among consumers. ‘Many more tomato varieties are available now compared to five years ago,’ says Richard Visser, professor of Plant Breeding in Wageningen.
Did you know that tomatoes should ideally be kept in a fruit bowl and not in the refrigerator? Refrigerated tomatoes lose a lot of their flavour.
Another example involves the most popular apple cultivar in the Netherlands: the Elstar. This fresh, sweet apple is also popular throughout north-western Europe. Elstar apples were first introduced in the mid-1970s following cross-fertilisation, selection, and propagation by the IVT institute, a precursor to Wagengingen Plant Research.
Santana, a sister of the Elstar cultivar, was developed more than ten years ago for people with a mild apple allergy. In addition to developing new varieties, WUR also researched the best methods for growing and storing them. According to Visser, that is the strength of Wageningen: in collaborating across multiple disciplines, in applying shared knowledge, in looking at the entire chain, and in interacting with companies. ‘Our innovations don’t just make it into publications,’ he says. ‘They are also applied in practice; after all, applied research is what we do.’
Like its sister Elise (also developed by WUR), Santana is less susceptible to apple scab and other diseases. This reduced susceptibility to diseases like mildew, canker and scab also reduces the need for spraying. As a result, most Santana crops are grown organically. Other apple cultivars have been developed in recent years, such as Wellant, Magic Star and the organic Natyra apple, thanks in part to research conducted at WUR.