Vegetable breeder Abbott & Cobb was recently acquired by Syngenta Seeds — an important move for both companies. American Vegetable Grower talked with Dr. Bryant Long, Vice President of Product Development at Abbott & Cobb, about the move is affecting breeding goals and what’s new with Abbott & Cobb corn and pumpkin varieties.
AVG: Abbott & Cobb was recently acquired by Syngenta Seeds. What advantages will this offer to the breeding programs of both companies?
BL: Historically, Abbott & Cobb and Syngenta pursued and were active in different world geographies. Abbott & Cobb was perhaps more active in fresh sweet corn markets whereas Syngenta certainly was more active in many processing sweet corn markets. I believe that this diversity of target markets resulted in genetic diversities as well. It is very apparent to many that these unique genetic synergies should provide large dividends in bringing broader offerings to world markets in the near future. Our research programs are currently well merged and working smoothly.
AVG: What is new in the SSW™ corn program? Are there new varieties that growers should know about? If so, what makes them stand out among the others?
BL: The SSW™ genetics have become more and more exciting with each day. The initial focus was on A & C parental lines and hybrids. Our breeding team is now converting key Syngenta inbreds to the SSW™ platform as well. This could truly provide tremendous advantages for both growers and consumers alike. Current promising new SSW™ varieties include:
- The first early varieties: SS Early Riser (yellow) and SS Bicolor Early Riser (BC) plus SS3006 (yellow)
- Second early SS3741Y and SS3778Y: (yellow)
- Main season bicolors: SS2749BC, SS Packout, SS28802MR, SS2757BC
AVG: The MultiSweet® program is designed to be high-quality eating varieties. What are the characteristics breeders are looking for in this program? And again, are there new varieties growers should be trying out?
BL: The MultiSweet® program has become even more popular due to the incorporation into many varieties of the previously described SSW™ trait. This has allowed improved germination and growth for these great-tasting varieties. Essentially all of the varieties listed above have excellent eating qualities along with great ear appearance and field performance.
AVG: A & C is well known for its white sweet corn varieties. Why have they been so successful?
BL: Our white sweet corn varieties have been well received for a number of reasons. In nearly all cases, these varieties express an exceptionally bright, uniform white kernel color (HiGlow®). Additionally, the key component of consistently good field performance makes these white hybrids favorites with growers and consumers alike.
AVG: We’ve been talking about corn, but it’s Fall, and pumpkins are the thing now. Tell me a bit about A & C’s pumpkin program – what are some of the best varieties for pick-your-own or farm markets?
BL: We have worked hard in our pumpkin program emphasizing all the desirable horticultural characteristics: uniform size and shape, excellent, attractive fruit color, strong durable handles, and good powdery mildew resistance. An added and important benefit to most of these varieties is earlier maturities allowing for greater harvest flexibility. Our popular early maturing varieties are Early King, Early Giant, and our newest pumpkin, Early Prince. Our smaller-sized varieties, Darling and Early Abundance, have unique shapes that make them very appealing for farm markets.