What's the Secret to Getting the Very Best Plants? Test, Test, and Re-Test

Workers handling seedlingsEach year, HeinzSeed starts developing nearly 300 new and promising hybrid tomato varieties. Each variety answers a commercial demand: higher ┬░Brix, resistance to spotted wilt virus or other diseases, field holding, or thinner/higher viscosity. After six years of extensive trials resulting in reliable data and reproducible results, only one to three of the 300 hybrid varieties make it to market.

Matt Leinfelder, manager of Heinz North America operations, sales, and trials, admits that HeinzSeed’s trial program is rigorous, time-consuming, meticulous, and beyond the norm in the industry. But, it works. When a variety is finally released to the commercial market, both HeinzSeed and growers can be confident that the variety will perform as expected.

“We take testing to a large scale, but we have confidence in the varieties we release to growers,” says Leinfelder. “It’s definitely an up-front investment for HeinzSeed. We’re producing large amounts of seed to run these large scale trials, but it pays off in the end. Our buyers can see the kind of work we’re doing to advance new genetics in the industry, which is going to benefit them.”

A methodical process
There are several steps that take place during HeinzSeed’s six-year variety trial process. Small-plot trials are conducted first. Those varieties that make the cut are moved into a middle trial phase, during which they are planted in 50-100 foot plots simultaneously, and in various conditions and regions.

The varieties that make it to the final phase are planted in full-scale 1-3 acre adaptive trials, in grower fields, in multiple locations and countries. During these adaptive trials, the fruit is harvested and processed to ensure commercial viability and performance. These large-scale, truckload, adaptive trial harvests require a great many seeds and the process is costly and labor-intensive.

“It’s as close to real-world as we can get,” Leinfelder says. “Basically, we have all summer and into the harvest season to look at the adaptive trials in the final phase. We weed out varieties every year and the ones that don’t meet our high expectations don’t make it another year.”

Because Mother Nature can be fickle, one year of large-crop, adaptive trial testing is not enough to satisfy HeinzSeed’s need for reliable data. Rather, varieties are tested for several growing seasons to ensure that the crop will be a consistent performer in typical and atypical weather conditions within a region.

HeinzSeed’s rigorous trial testing program ensures a successful outcome for growers who are looking for tomato varieties that are consistently reliable and produce a high-yielding crop.

To learn more about the science behind HeinzSeed varieties, contact your H.J. Heinz representative, Dale Smith at Dale.Smith@us.hjheinz.com.

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