Marcel van Diem on organic breeding - 25 years experience


Marcel van Diemen on Vitalis - 25 years of experience

Marcel van Diemen

I consider a lot of elements before I make my choices as on organic breeder. Elements I have to take into account:

  • market needs,
  • organic growing techniques,
  • as well as consumer preferences such as taste and nutritional value

All this to offer quality seed that unfolds its full potential under organic conditions.

I first started as a breeder at Enza Zaden in 1991. I came in contact with the organic seed business when the connection between Enza Zaden and Vitalis became closer.

Organic breeding

I was involved in open field breeding trials under organic conditions. I needed to select varieties which offered higher resilience. I enjoyed this work. It felt natural when in 2011 my manager asked me about my plans to change from conventional towards organic breeding.

Strong, organic lettuce

One of my first big projects was the breeding of lettuce and IR Bremia resistance. Eventually, this 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. You need to work closely with organic growers to understand their needs and challenges.

Pumpkin, an important crop for organic growers

Today the crops I breed in have changed. First I worked with open field leafy crops, and now I am more involved 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. The challenge was to develop varieties with a 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 the taste and nutritional value are always key characteristics when reviewing our new material.

Reliable and trustworthy

Vitalis is in the market for 25 years now. It shows that we are reliable and trustworthy, which is important to growers. Many of our customers have been with us on this journey from the very beginning. The relationships with these customers can be characterized with respect and mutual trust. Our clients know that they can come to us with their questions. In return, we will share our knowledge and experience with them. 

I fully stand behind organic horticulture and the concept of not using any fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. I believe that we achieve better results in the organic and natural way. Will we be able to feed the world organically? Well, of course, we will have to do it smartly and it won’t happen overnight. But I am convinced that we can do it. We carry responsibility for our planet, the future, and our children. So, my mission is to leave our planet a little better than I found it.

On the right track

I am confident that we are on the right track. Seeing the growth of the organic market. Vitalis has the right varieties to support this