Fruit World markets first Sonata strawberries in 2009 in Europe!

On Monday 2 March 2009 the first Sonata and Elsanta strawberries have been harvested in Europe! Fruit World, located in Breda, The Netherlands has marketed the berries grown by Gijs Hoogendoorn, a dutch grower in Portugal. He planted in the winter cold stored trayplants. Due to the favourable climate in the area of Faro it was possible to achieve an early start of the season in the unheated tunnels.


First Sonata strawberries in Belgium the beginning of March 2008

Since the first week of March there are Sonata strawberries available at the Auction of Hoogstraten. The strawberries are being grown by the Kenis-Jochems family in Meer, Hoogstraten, in the north of Belgium. Robin and Angela are managing a greenhouse of 7000 m² of Sonata and 18000 m² of Elsanta. They have started the strawberry season with the variety Sonata because of its easy fruitset and its uniform grading, two typical characteristics of the variety Sonata.

Therefore they planted early December trayplants in containers filled with peatsubstrate. The plants have been given a night break treatment with incandescent lights during the end of December for 3 weeks. Since the end of January the plants received additional radiation from photosynthetic assimilation lights (about 11000 lux). Daughter Anne and son Gijs are proudly harvesting the perfectly looking Sonata berries for Eastern. They look huge eastern eggs! Amazing and they do have a great taste!


First Figaro strawberries harvested in 2008 in Portugal

Gijs Hoogendoorn has harvested in the first week of March the first Figaro strawberries in an unheated tunnel. The fruits are set very well and have a nice red colour. The berries are larger compared to Elsanta which improves the picking speed. Trayplants have been cold stored for 4 weeks and planted around 20 december. The strawberries are being marketed by FruitWorld Breda.




Sonata expands continuously in Europe


Sonata is selected from seedlings of a cross of Elsanta and Polka by Plant Research International (The Netherlands) and is under licence control of Fresh Forward.
Sonata has been tested since 2002 on several research stations under the selection number PRI 9802. The nice conical fruitshape and the good fruitset were standing out in all the trials. On growers sites good yields were obtained which were comparable to those of Elsanta. Sonata also prooved to be less sensitive to winterfrost damage compared to Elsanta. Because of these characteristics the acreage of Sonata is expanding in Northern Europa constantly. Sonata plants are shipped to mainly Germany (50 %), The Netherlands (25 %) and Scandinavia (10 %), Engeland and Schotland (12 %). Fresh Forward is testing the variety at the moment in Canada and the US.



Initially Sonata has been propagated by six Dutch nurseries (Flevoplant, Rapo, De Kemp, Neessen, Van Alphen and Kovaka) and the German nursery Kraege. Since a few years other nurseries in Europe have started to propagate the variety because the demand for Sonata plants has increased drastically. The variety was propagated on 120 ha all over Europe in 2007. The estimated nursery surface in Europa for 2008 is estimated to exceed 155 ha which means that over 50 million Sonata plants will be produced for next season.


Plant propagator Konings from Kovaka

Ad Konings estimates that in 4 years time his nursery propagates Sonata, the share of waitingbedplants of this variety represents now over 30 % among his customers in The Netherlands. Sonata has to be propagated differently from Elsanta on the nursery : “In comparisment with Elsanta on the waiting bed field Sonata grows much slower. On the nursery field Sonata produces runners much later and does not produce as many runners. However, Sonata produces more easily multicrowns which makes the plants achieve high yields. This is the reason because Sonata has to be planted 10 days later than Elsanta on production fields and waitingbed fields. Sonata is less susceptible to powdery mildew. On the other hand the variety needs more magnesium and micro-elements such as manganese and iron in the nursery”.


Sonata moves forward in the strawberry industry

In The Netherlands Sonata is particullary interesting for a spring crop in the greenhouse because of its good fruit set and uniform fruit shape. Outdoors more Sonata is being grown, especially on fields with rowcovers and for early plantings of waiting bed plants. Again the easy fruit set and the lower incidence of misshapen fruits makes growers choose for this variety.

Klaas de Jager-Greenery

Especially The Greenery has good experience with growing and commercialising Sonata strawberries. In 2006 The Greenery supported the introduction of the variety with a price guarantee for the growers. In 2007 the berries were sold at prices comparable to Elsanta. Interested markets are the UK and Russia. For the Russian market the strawberries are being picked in an orange colour stage. The colouring proceeds slowly during the shipment so Sonata berries arrive in Moskou with a homogeneous red colour. According to fieldmanager Klaas de Jager about 8 % of the total produce was the variety Sonata in 2007. For 2008 de Jager estimates the production of Sonata will double. The main interest of the growers is the June production with fresh dug plants coverd with lutrasil of perforated PE and the first plantings of cold stored waitingbed plants. In these productionsystems Sonata will represent about 40 % of the acreage. Also in the early greenhouseculture Sonata will expand because Elsanta usually produces a lot of ridged, misshaped fruit with green tips in early spring.


Jan Perthijs “easy to harvest, good shelflife”

Family Perthijs grows about 13 ha strawberries outdoors and 2 ha strawberries in a greenhouse in Etten-Leur, Breda. He is the pioneer of Sonata and has over 4 years experience with the variety. In 2008 Perthijs converts his farm completely to the variety Sonata and quits growing Elsanta. The advantage is the easy picking : “Sonata berries are easy to pick, the fruits are very uniform and grading is simple.” Perthijs has since a few years a normal outdoor crop of Sonata under rowcovers : ”The main advantage is the easy fruitset. With Elsanta the first flowers suffer from nightfrost and become catfaced fruits. That is not the case with Sonata. Also, the taste of early produced Sonata is superior to Elsanta. Even the birds know that and prefer Sonata instead of Elsanta. And if they know what tastes good… Also aphids are attracted by Sonata because of the higher sugarcontent in the petiole sap. It is important for this reason to survey early in the season under the rowcovers for aphid infections and spray in time. Elsanta often produces misshaped fruit or fruit with green tips which do not colour anymore after harvesting. Sonata doesn’t have this problem. We harvest Sonata in an early stage. An orange coloured berry is perfect for long shipment to Russia. The berries colour sufficiently during the trip and are beautiful red on arrival. No complaints about the shelf life.”

Toon Van den Berg “uniform grading”

Van den Berg grew in 2007 about 20 ha of strawberries(sixty day plants) in Rijsbergen, close to Breda, of which 5 ha Sonata. He is considering to expand the acreage of Sonata in 2008. The conclusion is positive : “Last summer was perfect for Sonata : not to warm, rain on regular basis, a good growing plant. Sonata was yielding above 25 ton per ha and the grading was very uniform. The harvest period starts almost at the same time as Elsanta but Sonata never peaks. The production goes on more continuously and lasts a bit longer which makes it easier to organise the labour. That is very important these days, we don’t like these peak moments with concentrated productions in a few days.”
Van den Berg plant Sonata for the moment only in spring. “A warm summer can cause a softer skin in the afternoon. In that case it is necessary to harvest early in the morning. With sixty day plants it is possible to plant until end of June. Later planting means producing fruit in September-October in tunnels. Under cloudy conditions Sonata doesn’t colour very much.” Concerning prices Van den Berg says : “Sonata and Elsanta don’t differ very much if we talk about marketprice. This year Sonata has been paid even better because Sonata looks better in the punnets, the fruits are more uniform and have no green tips. The reserve some traders have had because of the shelf life of Sonata has vanished now.”


Anette Kers-Fruitmasters

Sonata has been marketed in 2007 by Fruitmasters Geldermalsen. The price was comparable to Elsanta. According to R&D manager Anette Kers the commercialisation of new varieties needs support and does not work by itself. “For Elsanta everything works out automatically, however when introducing a new variety the sales department has to know about the amount , timing and quality of the produce so the sales can be organized. If not small quantities of new varieties fetch lower prices. Important is also to sell the appropriate quality for the corresponding markets. Colour, firmness and shelf life are important to consider before shipping. It is possible to take this into account during the growing and picking of the fruits so the customers are satisfied.”

Cees Peters “no misshaped fruits”

Cees Peters from Hoeven has had good experiences last summer with Sonata as sixty day plants. All his strawberries are being sold by Fruitmasters, Geldermalsen.
According to Cees : “The price we got for Sonata was not different from that of Elsanta. As a bonus Sonata does not produce any misshaped berries. Elsanta is not uniform and a large part of the fruit is second class. That is not the case with Sonata and it gets yield.” Peters is motivated to increase the acreage of Sonata in 2008 up to 10 ha, half of the total area.


Disease susceptibility of Sonata

Sonata is as sensitive to crown rot (Phytophthora cactorum) as its parent Elsanta. It is important to apply fungicides such as Paraat, Aliette or Fenomenal as early after planting as possible. On the other hand Sonata is more tolerant for powdery mildew in the nursery, the waiting bed and the production field. Elsanta curles its leaves early and powdery mildew can be a big problem in a dry windy summer. Sonata is more easy to grow. Advantage is Sonata is less sensitive to angular leaf spot (Xanthomonas frag.) compared to Elsanta and Clery. An important advantage because this bacterial disease has become more important in Europeand there are no effective bactericides available at the moment.


Specific fertilisation wishes of Sonata

“We grow Sonata like Elsanta but the variety needs more magneisum and nitrate” says Eric Peters. “Last year we used 15 gram Agroblen (3-4 months) per plant, that is 4 gram more than we normally use for Elsanta.”
Typical for Sonata is the lighter leafcolour which indicates the higher need for nutrients such as magnesium, manganes and iron. It is necessary to feed the plants on a regulary basis with manganese (chelates, nitrates, organic formulations) to prevent deficiency problems. Special attention to magnesium is needed. Preplant incorporation of kieserite and drip irrigation or foliar feeding with magnesiumsulphate can counter deficiency problems.
In sixty day crops without mulch broadcast application of patentkali (30 % K,10 % Mg, 40 % Sulphur) during flowering can have a positive effect. This way extra magnesium and potassium are applied withoug increasing nitrogen. This can improve the firmness of the fruits and avoids excessive growth and fruit rot due to high nitrogen.



Figaro strawberries harvested in Portugal, December 2007

Beautiful Figaro strawberries are being shipped by Fruitworld from Portugal. They are being grown by Gijs Hoogendoor. He planted cold stored plants end of September targeting for Christmas harvesting. The fruits have a nice orange red colour and are sufficiently firm for transportation. The size is superior to Elsanta.



First week of June, Meer, Belgium, June 2007

The first Figaro strawberries have been picked by Inge and her brothers Stef, Gert, Tom and Ben Krijnen, this under the professional supervision of their grandfather Fons Krijnen. The twins Stef and Inge are cheking the taste of the strawberries. The older boys Gert, Tom and Ben are proud to harvest the fruits!

Father Luk Krijnen in Meer (Belgium) was curious to know how the fruits would look like and anticipated by planting a small amount of Figaro plants two months ago in a field of sixty day plants of Elsanta.

In a few weeks a handful of of growers in Noord-Brabant (The Netherlands) and Hoogstraten (Belgium) will start harvesting Figaro. About 100.000 waitingbedplants have been planted from half May onwards until June. Figaro has been selected by Fresh Forward. Elsanta is one of the parents of Figaro.Typical for the variety is its fast rootdevelopment and good vegetative growth which make the plants establish better than Elsanta during warm weather periods. Figaro develops more leaves before flowering, the fruits are larger and do not colour so dark as Elsanta. This will be an important advantage for the sixty day crop. Elsanta very often produces small fruits in the summer.

The Greenery, Fruitworld and Veiling Hoogstraten are following up the trials with Figaro with great interest.



First Sonata of 2007, March 2007


Will Beekers, a Dutch strawberry grower based near Breda, has started the strawberry season off with Sonata. The berries have hit the shops in the first week of March!
The skilled use of artificial lights and the unseasonably warm weather in January and February have been an important factor behind the early crop. Will Beekers has planted his 1 ha greenhouse just before Christmas with Sonata trayplants (raised by the nursery Kovaka) in 5 liter buckets filled with coir substrate.

On the question “Why Sonata ?” Will said : “the fruitset of the variety is so easy, the berries are just perfect, not even one berry is malformed, the shape is uniform and the berries are very glossy”.

The Sonata berries are being sold under the brand Beekers Berries Sweet Supreme. The glossy berries look amazing with their tips upright in the black 500 gram punnets. You can find the Sonata berries now in The Netherlands and Belgium on the shelves of the more exclusive fruit&vegetables stores. Sonata stands out in comparisment with the Spanish berries and prices of these high quality strawberries are three times as high.



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