France is recognized worldwide for the quality of the garlic plants it produces. French garlic crops are grown in a rich and diversified soil in favourable climatic conditions, and the industry involves a network of skilled professionals covering all areas of garlic plant production, from plant breeding to marketing. Strict production standards have been determined and are rigorously applied by all involved in the industry in order to guarantee garlic plants comply with the highest quality and food safety standards.
The pedoclimatic conditions in France are ideal for producing quality garlic plants in a wide range of varieties. Over 25 varieties are propagated over 500 ha in 4 regions: south eastern France, south western France, Auvergne and northern France. These regions have a long tradition of cultivating garlic and optimum climatic conditions. Long crop rotations, 5 years and more, improve soil quality and reduce the damage caused by pests and disease.
The INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) has been working in close collaboration with professionals for over 30 years in order to cover all aspects pertaining to garlic cultivation: (meristem cultivation, research on diseases: viruses, bacteria, rot…). This collaboration means the industry is always at the cutting edge of progress, and capable of meeting both the requirements of farmers and demands tied to the changing face of the market.
Breeding is essentially carried out by the INRA as well as a few commercial breeders with the help of numerous partners (farmers, cooperatives, GIE…). Varieties are selected based on precocity, conservation, bulb shape and colour (tolerance to bacteria) etc... Trials are carried out through an organized network in order to better evaluate plant behaviour.
In order to obtain the best quality garlic plants, professionals have implemented a strict production scheme. First generation plants are propagated under insect-proof tunnels in order to prevent viral contamination and are disinfected by thermotherapy against nematodes.
Throughout their growth cycle, plants are closely monitored by SOC-approved technicians (SOC: Official Inspection and Certification Body). Samples are tested and checked for nematodes. Mandatory laboratory tests are on the increase as quality standards grow stricter. For instance, French certification standards are stricter than those established by European Directives.
Plant propagation is performed on farms by highly skilled and specialized farmers. This work is carried out by 105 farmers and cultivated acreage is approx. 499 ha. This task requires highly skilled workers and appropriate equipment for production and conservation.
Readily identified by a blue label (certificate or label delivered by the SOC), farmers and amateur gardeners can purchase garlic plants that meet SOC certification standards.