(Oct. 28, 12:44 p.m.) Syngenta Seeds Inc. plans on breaking into the summer broccoli game over the next three years with new heat-tolerant broccoli seed varieties.

The company finalized agreements with R&D Ag Inc., Gilroy, Calif., that give Syngenta a license to research and develop hybrid varieties of broccoli with R&D Ag’s patented heat-tolerant germplasm.

The agreements give Boise, Idaho-based Syngenta Seeds exclusive rights to the hybrid broccoli varieties they have been researching and developing since the early 2000s, when the company acquired non-exclusive rights to R&D Ag’s patent on heat-tolerant broccoli, said Debi Warnick, manager of technology collaboration for Syngenta Seeds Inc., a subsidiary of Syngenta AG, Basel, Switzerland.

The new agreement gives Syngenta commercial marketing rights for the broccoli varieties it has developed since the partnership began.

Syngenta has three heat-tolerant varieties in the pre-commercial stage, Warnick said, which means they are developed and ready for high-volume trials. Those varieties should be the first to be released in three years.

Extending seasons

The new varieties are able to withstand temperatures of more than 105 degrees, eventually making them usable in areas that do not normally grow broccoli, Warnick said.

“Growers are getting crunched with gas prices and water restrictions, “Warnick said. “For the grower to be able to go into a new area of farming, to have products that don’t need to grow in such a specific environment, will be really important.”

Even with more broccoli varieties that can grow in more regions, growers would still need to set up packing sheds and transportation equipment if they were to move to new areas. What would likely happen in the beginning is that the varieties could give growers an extra few weeks at the end of their summer season, when it usually gets too warm, Warnick said.

“If you’ve already figured out a product for Salinas (Calif.) with a disease package and everything, we’re just adding germplasm for heat tolerance to that,” Warnick said. “It’s just a matter of doing the trials and seeing what works.”

Syngenta and R&D Ag have done field trials in Gilroy, Calif., which had temperatures in the 100s during September, Warnick said. The trials included Syngenta’s research varieties grown alongside current summer broccoli varieties from competing companies.

Warnick said there is a growing grocery store demand for year-round fresh broccoli.

“I think broccoli is going more and more fresh and people are eating less frozen,” Warnick said. “Consumers are wanting fresh instead of year-round product in their freezers.”

Syngenta currently does not offer any seed varieties for the summer broccoli season, Warnick said.

“That was something we saw as a weakness in our segment,” Warnick said.