27 Apr 2023

Melissa: a success that for Coop. Sole is worth 100 hectares

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Coop Sole's strawberry campaign got off to a very good start thanks to a mild autumn that encouraged a substantial increase in production in the early segment and enabled the cooperative to cope with growing demand for Italian strawberries from northern European markets.

We met with Pietro Paolo Ciardiello, director of Coop Sole cooperative (pictured left, flanked by Carmela Suriano, NSG's Business development Director Emea, Antonio Maione president of Coop Sole and Coop Sole vice-president Carmine Micillo) during theOpen Day of Nova Siri Genetics, with which the Parete (Caserta)-based cooperative has a well-established partnership:

"We have been cooperating with Nova Siri Genetics for several years. Initially, the most popular variety was Sabrina, then we tried Melissa, which immediately proved to be a more suitable variety for our needs and now accounts for 50 percent of Coop Sole's 200 hectares of production."

A SIX-MONTH SEASON FOR MELISSA IN THE CASERTA AREA

With its long cycle it manages to cover in the Caserta area the first 6 months of the year (January to June) and its commercial success depends on several factors; certainly the good organoleptic characteristics and the long shelf life but Pietro Ciardiello is keen to emphasize the resistance in the field that makes it particularly suitable for organic production. 

Strawberry Melissa of Coop. Sunshine
Strawberry Melissa in Coop's SìBon brand. Sunshine


"It isa hardy plant that goes with our desire to reduce chemistry in the field, because it is a good, disease-resistant strawberry, and our producers who are 100 percent integrated pest management now know it well and are very happy with it; they are able to produce at zero residue without the presence of pesticides."

Coop Sole's commercial success is thus the result of a path toward sustainability that comes from afar and increasingly meets the needs of the market; a path made up of precise choices that has found in Nova Siri Genetics a strategic ally and a partner that knows the territory and the conditions of the Caserta production area well.

The strawberry has long been considered a crop that requires the use of a lot of chemicals, but varietal innovation and cultivation techniques have radically changed the paradigm. Not only with organic production, but the whole evolution of the industry that has led to having strawberries of Italian origin on our tables now six months of the year, this evolution has also made it one of the safest products.

In fact,the switch from open-field to greenhouse cultivation has allowed strawberries that practically never touch the ground, protected by greenhouses with good ventilation, and this has saved many of the fungal treatments. Off-season cultivation has reduced the impact of weather and disease.

And the environmental impact of strawberries may decrease even further. The Coop Sole cooperative has installed an above-ground trial field where it is testing 20 cultivars and a production technique that in a few years could transfer to members, with standardization of product quality throughout the production period. With the increased production control allowed by these systems it will be possible to drastically reduce water consumption, make better use of the soil then optimize the use of growth support products and disease risks.

"The environmental sustainability that we have always sought marries social sustainability in these systems , and in addition to the enormous environmental and market benefits, this type of path will improve labor conditions at harvest." Says Pietro Ciardiello talking about above-ground, not forgetting economic sustainability: "These are systems that require a significant initial investment, but they are multi-year investments that can be amortized over the years through significant cost and waste savings. These systems are set to revolutionize the strawberry market."

Whether these systems will revolutionize the premium strawberry segment or instead create a new standard of sustainability will be for the market to tell.


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