Asparagus cultivation: machinery and curiosities

Friday, 05 May 2023

Asparagus cultivation: machinery and curiosities

All you need to know about growing asparagus

Asparagus is a vegetable appreciated worldwide both for its organoleptic and health properties and for its versatility in culinary preparations. Just think of the delicious dishes eaten during the spring months in Italy: asparagus is often used as the main ingredient in risottos, pastas, lasagnes, omelettes and pies, or as a garnish for meat or fish dishes.

Although many people think of asparagus as a relatively new vegetable, its cultivation has very ancient origins, dating back more than 2000 years. In fact, its name seems to derive from the Greek word aspharagos, which in turn comes from the Persian word asparag, meaning 'sprout'. The Egyptians and Greeks in particular cultivated asparagus for its medicinal properties, believing that it could cure various ailments and diseases.

Nowadays, not only is the market for asparagus growing, but there is also a great deal of research being carried out on it. To confirm this, several botanists and researchers from Italy, Mexico, Spain, Germany, China and South Korea attended the XV International Asparagus Symposium in Cordoba, Spain, in 2022. During this meeting, scientific results were presented by leading research institutes from almost twenty countries. The studies focused in particular on the analysis of the different varieties of asparagus, their beneficial properties for the body and the most advanced techniques for growing and preserving them.

In this article we will look at the main types of asparagus, their distribution around the world, some interesting facts about their cultivation and how to make the best use of Cosmeco machinery to obtain the best yield from the crop.

Types and distribution of asparagus

Around 300 different varieties of asparagus are currently known worldwide, but only a few are used for food. Some of the most popular types of edible asparagus are green asparagus, white asparagus and purple asparagus.

Green asparagus is one of the most common and popular types of asparagus in the world; it is cylindrical in shape, with a pyramidal tip and a colour that varies from dark to light green. It differs from other varieties in that it grows in the sun, developing the chlorophyll necessary for photosynthesis. This gives it a more intense flavour than white asparagus, which grows underground.

For the same reason, white asparagus has a more delicate flavour and a colour that can vary from white to cream. In Italy, it is most common in the Veneto region, where it is also considered a typical product of many Italian towns.

Purple asparagus is a less common variety than the previous ones. It is characterised by an intense purple colour due to the presence of anthocyanins, natural pigments also found in other vegetables such as beetroot and red cabbage. Its flavour is sweet and delicate, similar to white asparagus, but with a slightly nutty aftertaste.

There is also a variety of asparagus that grows wild in many parts of the world, including Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia: wild asparagus. It has thin stems and leaves that resemble blades of grass. It has a more bitter and pronounced taste than the cultivated varieties, but is still appreciated for its versatility and characteristic flavour.

Of these varieties, green asparagus is the most popular for production and global export, followed by white and purple asparagus. According to the latest research, global imports of fresh asparagus reached a value of $1.69 billion in 2021 (+15% year-on-year) - with a volume of 481,758 tonnes - with the top importers in terms of value being the USA (44.5%), Germany (8.9%), Canada (5.2%), the UK, the Netherlands (4.8% each) and France (4.5%). In the same year, Mexico and Peru were the top exporters, while China was the top producer.

5 things to know about growing asparagus

Asparagus is a popular and world-famous vegetable, not only for its health benefits and deliciousness, but also because there are a number of interesting facts about growing it that set it apart from other vegetables.

  1. Asparagus is a perennial plant that lives for more than a year and continues to produce vegetables for several years. In fact, once the plant has reached full maturity, it will continue to produce asparagus until it is replaced by a new seedling. This characteristic makes asparagus a very profitable and sustainable crop, which requires constant effort and care, but can guarantee continuous, high quality production for several years.
  2. It is mainly grown on sandy or loamy soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. These types of soils ensure good water drainage and root aeration, which promotes plant growth and development. Soils with a pH in this range also ensure optimum availability of plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other micronutrients, which are essential for asparagus development. However, it is important to note that asparagus can also be grown on other types of soil, provided they are well drained and enriched with organic matter.
  3. The 'Bassano white asparagus' variety has been recognised as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the European Union since 2010. Cultivated in the provinces of Vicenza and Padua in the Veneto region, it is characterised by its distinctive white colour and delicate, sweet flavour. Thanks to its quality and fame, Bassano white asparagus has become a symbol of Veneto and Italian cuisine.
  4. Other Italian asparagus varieties have been recognised as IGP (Protected Geographical Indication): Badoere IGP, a high quality variety grown in the Veneto region in the provinces of Padua, Treviso and Venice, Altedo IGP, grown in the province of Bologna and Cimadolmo IGP, grown in the province of Treviso.
  5. The different colours of asparagus may depend on the method of cultivation and the machinery used. White asparagus, for example, is grown in such a way as to avoid exposure to the sun and is bleached naturally or artificially, giving the spear a characteristic white colour. The colour may also depend on the variety, as in the case of purple asparagus, and on climatic conditions.

How to use Cosmeco bedformers to grow white and green asparagus

Growing asparagus is an activity that requires a great deal of care and commitment from the farmer: in addition to the climate and the type of soil, the cultivation methods and techniques used can also influence the yield and quality of the asparagus.

The Cosmeco machines used to grow asparagus are bedformers, which allow 'raised cultivation', a technique that improves soil drainage and encourages the development of the asparagus roots. Mulchers are also used in some cases.

Specifically, bedformes are used to create mounds of soil called 'trunks' or 'logs' on top of previously planted or growing paws. The size and height of the bed (or ridge) can vary according to the type of asparagus grown and the needs of the farm. For example, for white asparagus, the pile can be up to 70 cm high and completely cover the plants, whereas for green asparagus, a lower ridge of around 20-25 cm is sufficient and is only used during the ripening process to support the spears.

Mulch layer, i.e. covering the soil with a black plastic film, is also necessary for white asparagus: the plastic film blocks the sun's rays and prevents the white asparagus from becoming pigmented, thus preserving its characteristic colour. Green asparagus, on the other hand, does not require mulching.

One of the features of the Cosmeco bedformer is that it can be equipped with a mulch layer that can be used separately or simultaneously, depending on the needs of the crop.

See below for an illustration of the different growing techniques for white and green asparagus:

The advantages of Cosmeco bed formers for asparagus and other crops

Cosmeco bed formers offer several advantages in terms of versatility, adaptability and functionality. The different models of Cosmeco bed former, including the compact bedformer, the adjustable bedformer and the adjustable bedformer for asparagus, are capable of forming different sized spears, depending on the type of crop and the customer's needs. Thanks to the adjustability of the bed former, farmers can achieve the best results in asparagus cultivation, guaranteeing a constant and high quality production.

The benefits of Cosmeco's bed former machines are many:

  • The strength of Cosmeco's bed formers is their adjustability, both in height and in width, which allows the farmer to adapt the size of the trunk to the needs of the crop.

Cosmeco bedformers consist of an adjustable frame and two rotors, each consisting of two discs on which different types of knives are mounted. Unlike most bed former on the market, Cosmeco bed formers further break up the soil and convey it to the centre of the machine, where it is compacted by a trapezoidal shaper, giving it its typical trapezoidal shape. In this way, the mound is compact on the outside but porous and crumbly on the inside, allowing the asparagus to grow well and, above all, straight.

  • The maintenance of the baulators is easily carried out by the customer, especially the replacement of the knives, which are the main wear parts. In the event of breakage or breakdown, the customer can count on the support of Cosmeco, which can send spare parts by courier anywhere in the world or carry out repairs on site.

  • Finally, the possibility of adjusting the height and width of the mulcher makes it extremely versatile and suitable not only for growing asparagus, but also for other crops such as melons, strawberries, lettuce, potatoes, pineapples and watermelons.

For growers of asparagus and other vegetables, a machine that can change its working dimensions is certainly more useful than a fixed bauler that forms a standard size trunk or bed. In fact, the adaptability of the bedformer allows farmers to use the same machine for different crops without having to invest in specific machines for each vegetable. Not only that, but because some of Cosmeco's baulators reach great heights, they are also suitable for completely covering an 'old' crop or for other types of crop, such as large tubers.

Cosmeco not only offers a wide range of asparagus and other vegetable harvesters, but thanks to its highly qualified team, which is up to date with the latest technologies, the company is also able to offer a customised machine design service. Cosmeco's engineers listen carefully to the customer's needs and are able to provide tailor-made solutions that perfectly meet specific requirements.

If you would like more information about the services and products Cosmeco offers, please contact the company by filling in the form in the Contact Us section. We will contact you as soon as possible!

Share this page