Cecelia Chi-Ham, director of global R&D strategy for HM Clause, said she attended the Vegetable & Flower Seed Conference to support many meetings, including the plant breeding innovation meetings. Presented by the American Seed Trade Association, the conference took place in January in San Diego, California.
Chi-Ham is in the business of developing new varieties of seeds for growers. In order to do this successfully, Chi-Ham said grower input is imperative. “It takes about six to seven years to develop a new variety, so we have to anticipate their (growers’) needs,” Chi-Ham said.
However, Chi-Ham and her team cannot anticipate these needs alone. “The input that we get from the farmers is extremely important because it really dictates the trends and what we’re going to need in vegetable breeding,” she explained.
When Chi-Ham says that new varieties take six to seven years to develop, that is only a general timeframe. Varieties can be developed more quickly if need be. For example, if growers have a new disease devastating their fields, Chi-Ham and her team can begin working on a new variety that could potentially get to market in approximately two years.
New varieties require a lot of tests before they can hit the market, though, which gives growers another role. “We’re working with the growers, so they can be a part of the development process, so we can test in their soils,” Chi-Ham said.
Consumer desires are just as important as grower input when it comes to creating new varieties. Although most of Chi-Ham’s job revolves around science, listening to those in the industry and their consumers is a critical aspect of her job as well. “We’ll continue to use science, but also work with our consumers to bring products that they want to consume,” Chi-Ham concluded.
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