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Basil with Selenium: the business case of Orto Ricci in collaboration with Agronova and SAIS

Eleonora Pistelli, Marketing manager of Orto Ricci explains: “The Orto Ricci company was born 80 years ago in the province of Rome, in Anzio. We produce and market vegetables on 40 ha surface. Over the years, the company has strongly specialized in aromatic herbs, first of all, basil. We produced basil both cut and in pot”.

She continues: “In the last years, especially during the last one, the trend market shows how the percentage of consumers sensitive to the wholesomeness of food has increased”.

Orto Ricci

“Few years ago, we started with a cultivation system that would limit the concentration of Nickel in basil leaves at minimum. Now, we are ready with line of basil bio-fortified with Selenium”.

Selenium is a trace element that is naturally present in many foods and available as a dietary supplement. Selenium, which is nutritionally essential for humans, is a constituent of more than dozen selenoproteins that play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNS synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection.

The RDA’s (Recommended Dietary Allowances) are 55 mg day -1 for an adult. The Selenium deficiency often goes unnoticed and it is an example of hidden hunger. Hidden hunger, also known as micronutrient deficiency, afflicts more than two billion individuals or one in three people globally (FAO 2013).

Hidden hunger is a form of undernutrition that occurs when intake and absorption of vitamins and minerals are too low to support good health and development.

Selenium exists in inorganic and organic form. Both can be good dietary sources of selenium. In soil there is inorganic form, as selenites and selenates, that plant can uptake and convert into organic form.

The quantity of selenium in a given type of plant-based food depends on the amount of selenium in the soil. Selenium concentration in plants changes widely by geographic location. Some areas are naturally poor of Selenium.

One of the most cost-effective strategies to fight global micronutrient deficiency is biofortification of crops through agronomic techniques, conventional breeding or modern biotechnology.

The fertilization is the most common biofortification for vegetable crops. For controlling Selenium content in plants, it is essential to study the dynamic of uptake and distribution of Selenium in the plant in addition to its effect on plant growth and yield.

Plants mainly uptake the Selenium as selenate and selenite but they can also absorb organic form but not insoluble element Se or metal selenide compounds. Generally, selenate is the most soluble and available form of Selenium for plants.

Plants can increase selenium content by soil, by foliar application, by soaking seeds in selenium solution, seed dressing, or by the nutrient solution in hydroponic cultivation.

“We knew from some studies that the addition of selenium to the nutrient solution enhances the Se concentration in Basil without decreasing the yield and the qualitative characteristics of the final product,” says Alessandro Cinelli, owner of Agronova, consulting company specialized in horticultural production and nursery activities.

Alessandro Cinelli, owner of Agronova

“Furthermore we knew that the addition of Selenium in nutrient solution increased the Se concentration in all plant organs. However, the highest percentage of selenium accumulated in the leaves, followed by the roots, stems, and inflorescences”.

“By a study carried out by Dept. of Agriculture, Food and Environment of University of Pisa and the Institute of Ecosystem Study of CNR, we also understood that the partitioning of Selenium in the leaves, roots, and inflorescences was directly affected by the Se concentration in the nutrient solution. The accumulation in the stems was less sensitive to different Se treatments. We also know that selenium concentration in the leaves is higher when the plant absorbs the element from the roots rather than by foliar spraying”.

Valentina Melella, Technical Manager of Orto Ricci, says: “Considering that the leaves of the younger plants accumulate the highest concentrations of selenium, we should have used a fast-growing variety in order not to age the roots too much by limiting the uptake of selenium. Therefore we carried out some internal tests in collaboration with Agronova and SAIS Sementi, to identify which variety was most suitable for our goal. At the end of trials, we choose Gemini, variety from SAIS Sementi”.

Gemini in floating system

Franca Castagnoli, Manager of R&D of SAIS, says: “Gemini is a variety obtained from SAIS research. The plant recalls the traditional type of ‘Genovese’. The Gemini variety has intermediate resistance to Peronospora belbahrii and high resistance to Fusarium oxysporum f.sp basilicum. In this specific case, the challenge was to get more cuts by limiting the senescence of the roots that affect the uptake of Selenium from nutrition solution. The fast regrowing of Gemini overcomes the challenge”.

On the right: basil Nickel tested

Valentina Melella says: “We produce both cut and pot basil. The cut product is cultivated with a floating system while the pots rest on a sub-irrigated rug. The selenium- fortified line is sold as a cut product, as well as the low Nickel line”.

She continues: “We develop dedicated nutrient solution, with selenate, that get selenium amount in leaves of 2.5 mg/kg. Usually, we schedule a maximum of three cuts that are planned according to the growth of the leaves. Generally, we cut shoots of 15-20 cm long. We noted that the amount of selenium does not change among the cuts”.

Selection of Gemini selenium fortified

Eleonora Pistelli asserts: “We are satisfied with this goal. We are trying to get better however it is an excellent start. The line of basil with minimum level of Nickel (around 0.008-0.003 mg/kg) and fortified with selenium will be ready next month for the first selling of course with dedicated packaging”.

For further information, please contact:

S.A.I.S. Sementi
+39 0547 384250

Orto Ricci
+39 06 9874095

Alessandro Cinelli
+39 347 0363338

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Israel announces creation of global seed company

Two Israeli seed producers, Nirit Seeds and TomaTech, have joined forces to create Israel’s largest vegetable seed company. This synergy will enable unique seed breeding research and development that will accelerate the company’s growth in the international seed markets.

Upon completion of the merger, the company will have more than 80 employees worldwide, including molecular biologists, breeders, agronomists, and others.
The company will improve its breeding activities in Israel, Spain, Mexico and Italy, as well as significantly expand its representation in the Netherlands and North America, with a particular focus on growing vegetables in high-tech greenhouses.

Nirit Seeds is one of the most successful internationally traded tomato and pepper seed producers, investing in the development of revolutionary genetic technologies. TomaTech is one of the leading tomato seed companies in Israel, developing premium varieties, including those resistant to the dangerous Tomato Brown Ruffle Virus (ToBRFV).

The production of crop seeds is one of the most advanced and high-tech sectors in Israel. According to the Seed Department of the Federation of Israel Chambers of Commerce, seed exports currently generate $200 million in annual revenue. There are about 25 large and medium-sized companies in the local industry.

For reference. According to market research, the global vegetable seed industry is valued at $8 billion a year and is growing at a CAGR of 8%.

Prepared according to

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Karachay-Cherkessia became one of the leaders in the production of greenhouse vegetables at the end of 2021


Greenhouse vegetable production in 2021 reached a record 1.4 million tonnes. According to the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, the leaders among the regions in this segment are the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Lipetsk, Moscow, Kaluga, Volgograd, Novosibirsk, Saratov, Chelyabinsk regions, Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories, the Republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. These regions account for more than 60% of the total production in the country. The intensive development of greenhouse projects in our country helps to provide Russians with fresh vegetables all year round. Last year, the harvest in winter greenhouses updated the 2020 record – more than 1.4 million tons of products were received. Including the production of cucumbers amounted to at least 830 thousand tons, and tomatoes – 590 thousand tons. It is expected that by 2025 the volume of vegetable production in year-round greenhouses will be at least 1.6 million tons of vegetables.


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December: Special Year Overview

In 2022, it will be 22 year since the new millennium started. Can’t believe it? Neither can we, but it is true. Before we go there, it is time to reflect on what has happened this year. Over the next couple of weeks, we will look back at 2021 and we will highlight the most important events that impacted the industry.

New greenhouses, events, even a few shows, technical novelties, and all other relevant news will pass by, offering you something other than Covid to talk about during Christmas and New Years’.


Wish your customers Happy Holidays
This special also offers an opportunity to put your company in the spotlight with a banner in this special box. This banner can be booked until December 24 on our newsletters. For more information, feel free to send an email to: 

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