When developing hybrid varieties in glasshouses, we manually pollinate all of the plants, even self-pollinating plants like tomatoes and peppers. This is essential to developing hybrids because we have to cross-pollinate two different varieties, aiming to develop a new variety with the best traits of each of the parent varieties.
To do this, our team takes pollen from the anthers (the male part of the plant) of the first plant and puts it into a petri dish. Next, they remove the pollen from the anthers of the second plant to prevent the plant from self-pollinating. They take the anthers from the first plant and place it on the stigma (the female part of the plant) of the second plant. The pollen will go through the stigma for fertilization, causing the fruit to form. Once the plant grows to maturity, we’ll take the seeds from the fruit, which will be the hybrid seed.
Hybrids help us provide our growers with the traits they need to be successful, such as a certain level of yield or disease resistance. Without this process, the plant would self-pollinate and form seeds with the same characteristics of the original plant. This is why our team handles this manual pollination process with the utmost care, which means our growers know they can expect consistent results from our hybrid seeds.
One of the biggest differences between our hybrid seeds and our competitors’ is our genetics. We have access to our global library of plant genetics that help us develop varieties that meet the needs of growers, retailers and consumers all over the world. Some of the characteristics that we continually focus on are yield, disease resistance, shelf life and taste. Producing a hybrid is both an art and a science. It takes a long time, anywhere from six to eight years, to breed a new hybrid with the best mix of characteristics. Our selection criteria is very strict — we do years of research and vigorous tests on the varieties so once we select a new variety to commercialize, it’s selected from hundreds of thousands of hybrids. It’s our vast library of genetics that makes this possible and ensures our growers we’re bringing best-in-class varieties.
Hybrids can be difficult for growers to produce because there are a lot of decisions that need to be made, and those decisions aren’t always certain. They have to consider climate control, the level of light, the amount of fertilizer and water, and so much more. Because of this, precision agriculture is becoming especially important to growers.
So much of growers’ technology is automated because they’ve invested in their operations. Using new technologies such as artificial intelligence, algorithms and machine learning, we’re working to use the data we collect to create prescriptions unique to each hybrid variety. This prescription will show growers the levels of each input they should use to get the most successful results based on all our data. This prescription will include the results the grower can expect to get from it and will even be tailored to the growers’ glasshouse. Because the growers are using sensors and collecting all of their data, we’ll be able to ensure our prescription best matches their operation specifically using our algorithms.