Rijk Zwaan USA’s other big crop is spinach. Last year the company introduced seven new varieties, each with downy mildew resistance features.
“It was a very difficult year in Yuma for downy mildew,” he said. “That’s a challenge for seed companies. That organism changes so quickly, but the breeding wheel moves much slower. To be able to stay ahead of the game is real important. So far those varieties are holding up and doing well in the (California) coastal valleys too.”
The company has no worries that demand for spinach and lettuce varieties will run out anytime soon.
“Because of the advance of diversity in breeding, it seems like the grower-shippers are all keen to come to our trials,” he said. “That really helps. It gets close to tailor breeding when grower-shippers come to us and say, ‘That’s a pretty head, but we need it to come off the ground a bit higher so that our cutters can get underneath.’ Little things like that can save our breeders years of development time.”