Harris Moran opens expanded labs, new greenhouses

08/18/2011 03:32:00 PM
Don Schrack

MODESTO, Calif. — Harris Moran Seed Co. has opened the doors to a major expansion of the company’s laboratories and to new greenhouses.

Completed in July, the $3 million project increased the staff’s capacity for vigor/stress testing, which enhances seed lot performance assessments, said Randy McCoy, director of quality control. The new facilities also offer increased capacity for soil usable transplant testing, and the greenhouses expand available test methods while reducing the need for field-testing, he said.

“We receive bulk loads of vegetable seeds from nearly every continent,” McCoy said. “Samples of every load are run through multiple tests for germination time, pathogens, soils and plant pathology.”

Don SchrackDennis Choate, vice president of production and operations for Harris Moran Seed Co., Modesto, Calif., looks over testing in one of the many controlled atmosphere rooms in the company’s recently expanded laboratory. The expansion doubled the square footage for the germination lab and increased the pathology lab fourfold, he said.

Seeds arriving at the Modesto plant are from company-owned farms on several continents, from contract growers and from third-party specialized seed producers, said Dennis Choate, vice president of production and operations. All seed providers are visited frequently by Choate and his staff, he said, to make certain the seeds are grown under and to Harris Moran standards.

“With the cost of seed increasing, growers expect more,” Choate said.

Among the demands of growers is accurate germination percentage. To that end, McCoy said the new labs can mimic day and night weather conditions for a wide variety of growing conditions.

“We’ve created tests to place the seeds in the most stressful environments,” he said.

The vast majority of the seeds sold by Harris Moran are proprietary varieties, Choate said. Unlike other bagged agricultural products, the seeds are sold by number rather than weight, he said.

The Modesto staff will soon have help from Europe. In 2008, Harris Moran and France-based Clause Vegetable Seeds formed a new business unit, HM.Clause.

Laboratories and greenhouses are under construction at the French headquarters, Choate said. The investment for the French project may nearly triple the $3 million for the Modesto expansion, he said.

The Modesto facility conducts no genetic engineering tests, Choate said.



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