Monsanto is relatively new to the vegetable market, but some of the newly released varieties, as well as those in the company’s product pipeline, have the potential to be real game changers when it comes to consumer demand and grower friendliness.
In 2005, Monsanto acquired Seminis, marking its entrance into the vegetable arena. Since then, Monsanto’s main role, according to Consuelo Madere, president of the Monsanto global vegetable seeds division, is to consider the consumer experience and make vegetables taste better in order to boost consumption. Another goal, she says, is to help growers produce a better crop with more marketable yields.
During a media event at Monsanto’s global headquarters in St. Louis in August, Madere briefly touched on what Monsanto is working on in terms of vegetable crops:
Tomatoes: The company is working to identify variations in acid and sugar to create the taste of heirloom tomatoes. What makes that “garden taste,” and how can advanced breeding help recreate it? Monsanto aims to find out.
Scientists are also working on developing new tomato hybrids for resistance to Gemini viruses, including tomato yellow leaf curl.
Melons: A big problem consumers have is selecting a melon that they know is going to taste good, and it can be just as difficult for growers to know, too. Monsanto takes the guesswork out of it with its new SweetPeak honeydew melons. These melons are orange in color and offer a sweet taste and firm texture that makes it easy to cut into cubes. A smaller cavity means more fruit and less waste. In addition, the melons’ skin color changes as they ripen, which lets growers know the optimal time for harvesting.
Another newer melon on the market is the MelÅränge, which features dark-orange flesh. It can be up to 30% sweeter than traditional winter cantaloupes. They’re also smaller in size and offer “perfectly ripe” stickers to let consumers know the melon is ready to be eaten right away.
Lettuce: The new Crisphead Romaine Cross offers the best attributes of iceberg and Romaine — the high nutrient content and deep green color of Romaine, neatly packed into the crunchy sweetness of iceberg.
Broccoli: Harvesting crews will appreciate the Seminis EasyHarvest broccoli. The crown extends even with the leaf canopy, and the stem doesn’t need to have large leaves removed, making for easier harvesting. Because the crowns mature uniformly, this variety requires fewer passes through the field during harvest, too, resulting in decreased labor costs.
Another new broccoli variety, Beneforté, created using a Sicilian broccoli ancestor, offers extra nutrition in the form of boosted antioxidants. Each serving contains two to three times as much of the antioxidant-boosting phytonutrient glucoraphanin found in many other broccoli varieties.
Peppers: Marker-assisted breeding is being used to create peppers that are resistant to phytophthora blight. Sweet peppers will be launched first for the Eastern U.S., followed by hot and sweet peppers for Mexico.
Sweet corn: Available this fall, the Seminis Performance Series Sweet Corn hybrids will provide biotechnology traits that will offer control of above- and below-ground lepidopteran and coleopteran pests (corn earworm, fall armyworm, European corn borer, and corn rootworms). In addition, the hybrids will have the Roundup Ready trait, making them tolerant to over-the-top applications of glyphosate.
For more on these varieties, as well as other offerings from Monsanto, visit www.monsantovegetableseeds.com.