Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Trial by Jury in the Vegetable Seed Business

The “trial” in the vegetable seed business occurs when we plant new and existing vegetable varieties in the field for evaluation. Product experts within our company are the folks on the “jury”.

Vegetable trials each year take place in many locations. In the back of our building here in Rochester, New York, we have many raised beds where we evaluate new introductions for greens and root crops. In a neighboring county, we employ the services of a vegetable seed research farm. Here we are looking at sweet corn, peppers and tomatoes, squash and many other species. Our two sales people often locate vegetable trials with some of their customers. Our pumpkin trial each year is grown and cared for by a grower just east of here. Grower trials are very important as the grower is one who is helping us make valuable product decisions. In addition, in the heat of August, we take a swing through the Midwest each year to visit trial grounds in Illinois and Wisconsin.

There are many criteria we consider for making product decisions on possible new additions to our catalogs. As with sweet corn, we are looking at the following characteristics: plant height, ear height off the ground, plant color, hush color, husk tip cover, ear length, kernel row count, tip fill, disease resistance, days to maturity and eating quality. Eating quality has risen to the top of the chart, as the consumer has now come to expect it.

We like to see some improvements with possible new introductions. As with peppers, disease resistance, size, shape and fruit wall thickness are very important. Each species will have a specific set of criteria we use for evaluation. Detailed notes are taken and returned to the plant breeders for their consideration.

The process is very expensive time consuming, but in the end, we will have made good product decisions for our customers. We ultimately deliver better varieties to growers across the USA.

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