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Plant breeding is a fine balance, though consumers always want flavor

Demand for imported melons through ports of entry into the United States ranges from light to steady, according to a February 10, 2017 report from the National Watermelon Report, published by the United States Department of Agriculture. Prospected forecast for melon exports in Honduras for 2016-17 harvest estimated that fruit exports will generate between $60 and $65 million, according to HM Clause, which breeds, produces and sells seeds all over the world, says currently melons – both harpers and honeydews – are being imported to the USA from Central America, primarily Guatemala, Honduras and, to a lesser extent, Costa Rica. Off shore cycles typically supply melons from late November until late April. From May through November supply comes from the US. “Most of the product in May – June and October – November is supplied by the Imperial Valley of California and various production areas in Arizona; in July through September, most of the product is being grown in the San Joaquin Valley of central California,” said Bill Copes, Melon Breeder & Cucurbit Coordinator for HM Clause.

In addition to the improved flavor components of Fiji and Tonga, Copes says they offer a good degree of field holding, which results in greater harvest flexibility. “This trait enables our grower customers to make fewer harvest passes, which translates into reduced labor costs. It also allows the grower to manage supply in response to anticipated changes in commodity prices,” he said. Plus, the ability to leave the melon on the vine for an additional day or two can increase sugar levels and allows for better flavor development. 

From the perspective of Plant Breeding, one of the biggest challenges he’s tackling is finding the balance between post harvest attributes and flavor components. “The first introduced Harper melons showed significant improvement in post harvest attributes, an important trait, especially for product coming from Central America,” said Copes. “However, this improvement came at the expense of flavor and consumers were taking note of that. Our breeding program at HM Clause has put significant effort into finding the balance between needed post harvest traits and flavor, and we have developed a range of products suited to specific growing areas.” These include Tacana for Central America and Fiji and Tonga for U.S. production. 

With numerous product launches and a robust pipeline globally, this year the company will be announcing the addition of JAMAICA to the Vine Ripe melon portfolio. Jamaica is an Italian netted type with long shelf life well suited to cool season harvests. It’s an early season melon that allows shippers to jumpstart their season without compromising quality. 

For more information:
Bill Copes
HM Clause
Ph: 800-320-4672

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