Market needs, organic growing techniques as well as consumer preferences such as taste and nutritional value are elements I consider during my breeding work to offer quality seed that unfolds its full potential under organic conditions.
I initially started as a breeder at Enza Zaden in 1991. When the connection between Enza Zaden and Vitalis became closer I had first contact with the organic seed business. I was involved in open field breeding trials under organic conditions to select varieties which offered higher resilience. I enjoyed the work and so it felt natural when in 2011 my manager asked about my future plans that I wanted to make a change from conventional towards organic breeding.
One of my first big projects was the breeding of lettuce and IR Bremia resistance which eventually paid off. We were able to identify strong new varieties for the organic market. At the same time, I learned a great deal because when breeding organically you have to look differently at the crop and work closely with organic growers to understand their needs and challenges.
Today the crops I breed in have changed from open field leafy crops to a bigger involvement in red pumpkin, Butternut and Kabocha. Pumpkins are very important for the rotation schemes of organic growers to keep their soil healthy and fertile. Consequently, with the growing demand for organic horticulture also the demand for organic pumpkin varieties grew. That was also a moment when the task for me as a breeder became very interesting as the challenge was to develop varieties with higher yield, good taste and aroma and increased storage life. In general, there are various factors to consider when starting breeding work. Market needs, grower techniques as well as consumer preferences like taste and nutritional value are always key characteristics when reviewing our new material.
The point is that when a company like Vitalis is in the market for 25 years it shows growers we are reliable and trustworthy. A lot of our customers have been with us on this journey from the very beginning and our relationship is characterized by respect and mutual trust. Our clients know they can ask questions and we share knowledge and experience with them.
I fully stand behind organic horticulture and the concept of not using any fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. I believe we can achieve better results with the organic and natural way. Will we be able to feed the world organically? Well, of course we will have to do it smart and it won’t happen overnight however, I’m sure it could be done. We carry a responsibility for our planet, the future and our children and I’m convinced we should leave the planet a little bit better than we found it. Seeing the growth of the organic market makes me confident we are on the right track and we have the right varieties to support this development and meet the demand in the long run.