Interview with AGRAVIS experts at the start of the 2016 asparagus season
Street stalls and farm shops are preparing for this year's asparagus season. Both customers and farmers hope for a bountiful harvest. Where asparagus enthusiasts should pay attention, and how good yields can be achieved is explained by Frank Uwihs, adviser for special cultures in the crop cultivation sales consultancy at AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG.
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The season draws closer: When can consumers expect the first asparagus to be sold?
Uwihs: The first asparagus spears have already been harvested since mid-March in a few regions. However, it must become somewhat warmer outside before it really starts.
The mild spring two years ago brought about record yields: Can this season follow on from that and what factors play a part?
Uwihs: Asparagus enthusiasts will also be able to find all variants of asparagus this year, whether white, green, or purple, and therefore be able to implement all their ideas during cooking. The weather is not the only decisive factor for a high yield, but the use of film is also a major aid in cultivation.
What benefits does using film provide?
Uwihs: Generally, we say the following: When asparagus grows beneath film then it tastes better as it has a finer taste. Farmers are accepting this trend and are increasingly using film for growing asparagus. The benefits for the customer are quite clear: The equal and fast growth of asparagus creates a very mild taste and makes it possible to start on sampling the new year's range earlier. In addition, by using film the temperature of the asparagus is controlled and weed growth is prevented beneath the film.
What benefits are there above the film?
Uwihs: These benefits are quickly apparent: The bean seed fly is no longer able to lay eggs close to the asparagus spears. In addition, artificial watering of the area is no longer necessary as the ground hardly loses any water and therefore provides good yields without additional support. Furthermore, the film can protect asparagus beds and therefore also the plants against changing weather conditions.
What experiences have farmers made in the past?
Uwihs: Crop cultivators in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania think back to the 2011 sand storm with shock, as considerable disruption to traffic took place. The use of film means that such events will not happen again. Generally, the film doesn't just protect the grower's yield, but also ensures a pleasant taste experience for the customer. For this reason only an estimated ten percent of growers in Germany decide to grow asparagus without film.
There are certainly disadvantages to using film. What are these?
Uwihs: Yes, certainly. Disposal is often criticised, however we are fortunate to now have films that can be used for as long as an asparagus bed – for several years. As a result, the shelf life is dramatically increased. Generally, the film is then converted into a new product.
With regards to consumers: Could you give asparagus fans a few tips?
Uwihs: The first look is important during purchasing: Asparagus is particularly fresh when it has come directly from the farm. The asparagus tip should still be closed, and the surface should be smooth. When storing asparagus, the customer should ensure that it is kept cool and covered in a moist cloth.