The Blanca de Tudela (Tudela White) artichoke the most productive of all
The artichoke grown in Navarre, the Blanca de Tudela, appears earlier, is the most productive and has a greater industrial and agricultural yield than the rest of the varieties of this plant. This is the conclusion of researcher Juan Ignacio Macua González in his PhD thesis defended at the Public University of Navarre.
Navarre, nucleus of cultivation and supply
In Spain there are some 20,000 hectares given over to the cultivation of the artichoke. This surface area is fundamentally concentrated in the Mediterranean region, but also in Catalonia, Andalusía and along the Ebro Valley (in the Navarre, Rioja and Aragon regions). The importance of Navarre – number four on the list – does not lie in its volume of production given that, for example, artichoke cultivation in this Autonomous Community is only 5% of the total production in Spain, but in the fact that the area is the centre of the cultivation and the supply of the plant for the whole of Spain and even for other countries.
In Navarre, where the cultivation of the artichoke has a markedly strong presence in the agroindustrial sector, both for its production for the fresh market as well as for the canning and frozen food industries. The only variety grown is the Blanca de Tudela variety which has an oval-shaped artichoke head, quite small, compact and green. This variety is appreciated for its precocity, the ease with which it can be exploited industrially and its capacity for vegetative multiplication.
Within this context, the object of the thesis was to test to see if this artichoke variety is, indeed, the only ideal one for cultivation in the Ebro Valley or if, on the contrary, there are other varieties that might be an improvement on this. To this end, the agricultural behaviour of the Blanca de Tudela variety and its aptitude for industrial production applications was analysed in comparison to other varieties (the French Camus du Bretaigne and Violet du Provence and the Italian Violeta, Romanesco, Espinoso Sardo, etc.) given that, together with Spain, France and Italy are responsible for 70% of the world’s artichoke production.
A total of 38 varieties of artichoke of varying origin were studied over a period of six months at the Navarre Governments experimental agricultural station (ITG) at Cadreita with the aim of finding out how foreign varieties adapted to the features of the Ebro Valley, to the manner of typical vegetative propagation and industrial processes of the area.
Greater productivity and precocity
Sr Macua, an expert in horticulture, concluded that the power of vegetative propagation of Blanca de Tudela is greater than that of the Italian or French varieties.
The French varieties have a central trunk from which all the artichokes sprout whereas the Blanca de Tudela has a very small main sprout but with many lateral sprouts, i.e., axilar shoots which can be separated from the mother plant in order to propagate the plant.
As regards productivity, the industry demands that the size of the artichoke head have a maximum diameter of between 60 and 70 mm. Taking this parameter into account, the study showed that the Blanca de Tudela provided a larger number of artichoke heads of this size per plant in comparison to the rest of the varieties. Thus, with Blanca de Tudela between 20 and 30 heads per plant, whereas the Brittany variety gave between 12 and 14 and one of the Italian varieties, the Espinoso Sardo, only yielded 10 or 12 heads.
Additionally, the thesis concluded that the Navarre variety is also an earlier perennial than the others. In fact, this variety is the one used throughout all zones in temperate climates, such as the Mediterranean which produces artichoke crops from October to April, unlike in the Ebro Valley, where only a spring crop is harvested.
Apart from its precocity, the harvesting period of the Blanca de Tudela variety of artichoke is much longer in climatically mild zones. This feature enables the product to be better distributed on both the fresh vegetable and industrial markets. This is why, as the PhD author explains, this variety is of particular interest in areas like Morocco or South America where they are trying to introduce the cultivation of the artichoke.
More industrial yield
The problem with the artichoke is that it has low industrial-level yields: for 1 kilo of artichokes that the farmer takes to a production centre, only between 200 and 220 grams are product-useful. Nevertheless, of all the varieties analysed, it was concluded that the Blanca de Tudela is the one with the greatest industrial production, in test conditions.
In fact, all countries are introducing the artichoke production, especially in South America and all seed companies are currently looking to crossing varieties with that of the Blanca de Tudela in order to obtain the characteristics of the Navarre artichoke.
Iñaki Casado Redin
Nafarroako Unibertsitate Publikoa
(+34) 948 16 97 82
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