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International lettuce breeder visits Australian growers

Pictured: (LR) Grant McQueen, Sandra Verlaat, Jihan Mercier, Seiji Kagawa, Miguel Roca

In October, Syngenta’s Global Lettuce Breeder based in Torre-Pacheco Spain, Miguel Roca, visited Australia to meet with local growers and distributors to find out more about the needs of local growers and the Australian market.

The trip was the first of its kind for the local market.

The week-long tour was hosted by key distributor, Fairbanks, and together with other members of the global and local Syngenta team. The tour included visiting some of the key lettuce growing areas in Victoria and Queensland to discuss market conditions and opportunities with growers.

Sandra Verlaat, Syngenta Australia’s Associate Product Lead for Solanaceae & Leafy Brassica, was on the tour and explained how valuable the tour was for the lettuce industry.

“The most valuable part of the tour was the grower interaction and feedback. It was absolutely critical and where we learnt the most,” she said.

“With the help of Fairbanks Seeds, multiple trials with our early-breeding material were in place at multiple locations throughout Victoria and Queensland.”

“It was a great opportunity to have a good look at the performance of Syngenta’s existing material, benchmark the varieties against other standards in the market and how to position Syngenta’s material coming through the pipeline,” Sandra added.

In relation to the multi-leaf market, Sandra says the UK and Australia are the key players. This is because Syngenta is able to make selections at an early stage to support the Australian grower, through performance trials in the UK.

“The climate in Australia is more extreme than the UK so it allows Syngenta to get a feel for the performance of its material early in the game.”

“Especially in relation to Cos and Iceberg, as there are strong correlations between Spain and Australia climate-wise, so this is also used to position our material.”

“Generally, growers are looking for good yielding varieties, tolerance to tip burn and the right disease package; key ones being full mildew resistance and Nasanovia Aphid.”

“It is very encouraging to see that Syngenta is and will continue to be a competitive player in this market.”

“At Syngenta, we are always looking to improve our plant genetics,” Sandra said.

Globally, Syngenta invests $1.3 billion yearly in Research & Development and organizes tours, such as this, to help understand the challenges and opportunities that growers face and develop innovations to help bring plant potential to life.