US: Syngenta hires three new breeders to accelerate introduction of leafy vegetable varieties

Syngenta has made another significant investment in the future of leafy vegetable production in the U.S. by adding three new breeders. The move will greatly enhance the company’s ability to introduce advanced, innovative varieties into the market – bringing customers new offerings and complementing a portfolio of products that includes market leaders like Abilene and newcomers Big Thunder and Stage Coach.

The three new global R&D team members, based in the U.S., are focused on developing new varieties with enhanced features in romaine, iceberg and batavia lettuce, as well as spinach, including baby leaf.
  • Ravneet Behla (Ph. D, plant science, genetics and pathology) recently joined the leafy portfolio team as a romaine lettuce breeder focused on development of open-field varieties for fresh and processing markets, as well as whole leaf varieties.
  • Eifion Hughes (M.S., plant breeding), assistant breeder, will focus on spinach variety development for the U.S. market, while also supporting global market needs.
  • Joshua Besancon (B.S., environmental horticulture and urban forestry), assistant breeder, will assist with development efforts in romaine and iceberg lettuce.
  • In addition to new team members in R&D, Julie Butcher has been hired as the product lead for leafy and brassica crops, and will work closely with breeders to position new Syngenta leafy varieties and communicate the benefits to customers.

“One key focus of leafy breeding efforts moving forward is integrating resistance to tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) into our existing portfolio and new varieties, as well as identifying new resistance genes that provide insurance for growers against emerging strains of devastating diseases like downy mildew,” said Barner Golumbfskie-Jones, Syngenta leafy and brassica product marketing manager. “Beyond resistance, we are committed to delivering ‘full package’ products that fulfill needs throughout the value chain.”

Behla and Besancon are currently collaborating to identify and introduce traits that bring the deeper, darker green color to Syngenta fresh-market varieties that retailers are seeking.

“From a production perspective, we listen to our customers and work closely with them to identify and address the challenges leafy vegetable growers face. That is why issues like water utilization and bridging the gap between a lack of rainfall and soil with higher salt content is important to us,” said Golumbfskie-Jones.

For more information about Syngenta leafy vegetable varieties, visit

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