CALIFORNIA: The Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA) took a delegation of members from China, India, Pakistan, Japan, Korea and Myanmar to San Francisco, California, to explore the seed industry in the USA.
The delegation was led by Heidi Gallant, Executive Director at APSA, and Dr. Dadlani, APSA’s Technical Director. The majority of the programme was arranged by Michelle Klieger, Director of International Programs and Policy at the American Seed Trade Association, and also joining the tour was Bethany Shively, Director of Communications at the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA).
The delegation arrived in the USA on Sunday, 14 August and the tour kicked off on 15 August with a visit to Rijk Zwaan in Salinas. Following a presentation from Rick Falconer, Managing Director (USA), the delegation headed to the field to see the trials for spinach, lettuce and cabbage. Their experts even let the group try the new varieties they are currently developing for disease resistance and taste in the US market.
The delegation then set off to Sakata, where a field day was in progress. Plant breeders showed the group Sakata’s specialty, broccoli, and the group also had the chance to see special varieties of beets and cabbage, along with other crops on display.
Day two saw the group visit Incotec and Seed Dynamics. Both of these companies focus on technology applied to improve seed germination, enhancing the planting value and overall seed yield, with each company having its own specialties and clients specific to their respective operations.
Capping off day two, the group travelled to Davis California, and, on the way, visited Golden Valley Seed in Salida, CA. The delegation headed straight to the field and were offered samples of wonderful varieties of melon fresh from the Golden Valley vine while they toured the rows.
Nassif Burkhuch showed the group what makes Golden Valley special while everyone enjoyed the California sunshine. On day three the group visited HM Clause and, in the breezy morning, toured the melon, pepper and tomato fields while experts explained what HM is working on.
The group was allowed to take just a few pictures, which was very gracious. Later that morning, the group visited HM’s Fruit Quality and Cell Biology & Pathology labs.
No pictures were allowed there, but the group got the chance to see the facilities that make HM products unique. That afternoon, the group sat down with Tom Moore, West Coast Small Seed Production Manager at HM, for a discussion about ASTA and phytosanitary developments in the US.
Tom also joined APSA for the APSA-organised Second Phytosanitary Expert Consultation held in Bangkok on 5 and 6 September, representing ASTA’s work on phytosanitary measures in North America.
On day four the group visited Monsanto Seminis™ for another early morning field visit to atermelon and pepper trials, while also getting to see the garden Monsanto had developed for the All-America selections. The delegation toured the beautiful garden, tasting many varieties of cherry tomato and viewing some interesting varieties of okra.
The tour participants were also briefed about the working of Monsanto’s Seed Health and High Throughput Genotyping Laboratories. That afternoon, the group travelled back to the HM Clause cucumber seed field to see how machines harvest cucumber seeds. The large harvester scoops up the cucumbers as it drives along the rows of plants and then passes them up a conveyor belt into the machine, where they are bashed about inside. The seeds are collected and the leftover cucumber shells are spit out by a large cylinder on the back of the device. The group then viewed the seeds before they were sent to be washed and dried. It was an interesting experience for those who are currently harvesting wet seeds by hand.
On the fifth and final day the group visited the University of California, Davis, receiving presentations from the Seed Biotechnology Centre where they were given information on seed business and breeding courses offered by the university, both in California and abroad.
The group then enjoyed an overview of innovative technology being developed at UC Davis from Britta Hansen of the Horticulture Innovation Lab. The week was brought to a close at the home and farm of AgInnovations representative Peter Marks. The group toured the vineyard and cherry orchard, tasted the wines made on site, got a lesson in winemaking, and were treated to a lovely barbeque while sitting outside in the lovely California fresh air with Peter and his wife.
The entire group felt this was a wonderful way to cap off an informative, educational and fun experience. APSA would like to take this opportunity to thank our itinerary organizer, Michelle Kleiger of ASTA, without whom this trip would not have been possible. APSA would also like to thank all of the organisations who hosted the delegation on this visit for their time and consideration. APSA is very grateful for the collaboration and effort put forth by our partners, stakeholders, hosts and members for these efforts, and plans to provide many more tours in the future, further benefiting members and providing the opportunity to share experiences and broaden our networks.