Spain: The origin of Huelva's strawberries

What would Andalusia be without agro-food ambassadors like Huelva's strawberries or the subtropical crops grown in the region of La Axarquía? Behind the cultivation of these varieties, which are not traditional in Andalusia, is a farm of scarcely 50 hectares dependent on the CSIC and the UMA, but whose origin goes back to an agreement between the Spanish Government and the German Institute signed 50 years ago. We are talking about La Mayora, an institution which promoted the adaptation of strawberries and their subsequent intensive production.

The current managers of La Mayora recall that the access road to the Experimental Station, currently managed by the CSIC, was recently renamed as Doctor Wienberg Avenue. "It is a way of publicly thanking the role of those who created this agricultural research centre at the time," says the Mayor of Algarrobeño, Alberto Pérez.

The German scientist Hans Dieter Wienberg, 88 years old and Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Malaga, remained at the helm of the facilities between 1961 and 1975. It was precisely in the mid-seventies when the farms dedicated to the cultivation of strawberries started proliferating in La Axarquia of Malaga.

Subsequently, those intensive farms paved the way for the setting up of greenhouses, and now subtropical crops have taken centre stage, with a turnover from exports that, according to the Government of Andalusia, exceeds 250 million Euro per year.

After the agreement reached between the Spanish and German governments, Wienberg played a fundamental role in the development of agriculture in Malaga and Andalusia. But no less significant is that many of the original researchers reported about the ideal climatic characteristics of the most oriental region of Malaga.

This attracted huge investments with German capital, starting with the construction of the Torrox Costa international centre in the early seventies, which resulted in at least 300 families from Berlin choosing this tourist enclave to purchase a second residence.

The experimental farm also allowed the subsequent optimization of numerous varieties of cherimoya, tomato, pepper or cucumber, and Wienberg's figure was never forgotten. In fact, he still occasionally visits La Axarquia while on holiday. His dream was always for La Mayora never to lose its role as a research centre and it succeeded even during the recent recession.


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