- Head Grower – High Technology Organic Greenhouse
- Import and Export Sales Manager
- Sales Manager - US
- Grower | Cannabis
- Key Account Manager (f/m/d) - Full-time
- Vice President of Growing Operations
- Account Manager - Canada
- Account Manager - United States
- Procurement Manager Blueberries
- International Fruit Trader
Plant breeders take cues from consumers to improve kale
Traits of importance for plant production, such as resistance to disease, pests and drought are often a major focus for plant breeders. Consumers, however, are usually more interested in the culinary and aesthetic qualities of vegetables that directly impact their preparation in the kitchen.
Cornell vegetable breeder Phillip Griffiths, a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, and doctoral student Hannah Swegarden have embarked on a program to identify the different leaf shapes, colors, flavors and textures favored by consumers, and breed for those traits.
Hannah Swegarden, right, and technician Matt Wavrick transplant a kale cultivar from a research field at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, New York. (Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)
Kale is the same species as many other important agricultural crops consumed around the world. Cabbage, broccoli, collard, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, and kailaan, like kale, are all members of the species Brassica oleracea. The natural genetic diversity available in the species provides opportunities to further develop and promote a nutritionally important crop, according to Griffiths, who first started working with African kale or “sukuma wiki” for Kenyan consumers more than a decade ago. At that time, kale was still relatively uncommon in Western diets.
“We have been able to identify and generate diversity through natural cross-breeding, enabling selection of unique types that may be important not just for international and emerging markets, but also for supporting the production of a crop that’s highly nutritious and can promote new markets in the U.S.,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths and Swegarden are focusing efforts on developing new kale cultivars, including the evaluation of hybrid combinations. New cultivars in Griffiths’ breeding pipeline will push consumer expectations for kale, blurring the current color boundaries of greens and purples and introducing a range of new leaf and plant shapes.
“Kale in the U.S. is a relatively new crop. Aside from being nutritious and somewhat green, it hasn’t been well defined what traits consumers want in kale,” Swegarden said. “The diversity we have within the Cornell breeding program can be applied to understand current consumer preference and provide markets with in-demand products.”
Hundreds of different kale cultivars are bred at Cornell to identify and select different traits to meet consumer preference. (Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)
As part of the program, Swegarden has been gathering feedback from seed producers, growers, supermarket managers and consumers. She plans to use the information to breed for consumer quality traits.
She is partnering with Cornell’s Sensory Evaluation Center to perform consumer trials to develop a consumer kale lexicon and establish a trait hierarchy that can be used to guide the breeding program. This data will determine which hybrids and breeding lines to select in the field. Swegarden predicts that in the next few years consumers will see an even richer diversity of leafy greens available to them.
“We are connecting with consumers to find out exactly what they want, and, if successful, we will be able to deliver marketable cultivars that appeal to both a consumer’s eyes and taste buds,” she said.
The research is supported by the New York Farm Viability Institute through the specialty crop block grants program.
Source: Cornell University
Receive the daily newsletter in your email for free | Click here
Other news in this sector:
- 2023-11-22 Crop Trust and Plant Treaty pledging more than $100,000 to safeguard genebanks in Laos and Sudan
- 2023-11-22 Cora Seeds releases ToBRFV-resistant tomatoes
- 2023-11-22 Genetic insights into plant defense and growth trade-offs
- 2023-11-17 USDA proposes changes in approval process of genetically engineered crops
- 2023-11-15 Plant breeders and researchers collaborate for the next generation of legumes to reduce the protein gap in Europe
- 2023-11-13 AU: Breeder secures land to further breeding operations
- 2023-11-09 Turnover of Rijk Zwaan up to 593 million euros
- 2023-11-07 "We believe that such stacked resistance will stand up to new ToBRFV-mutations"
- 2023-11-06 Breeders welcome the adoption of the new Explanatory Notes on Essentially Derived Varieties by the UPOV Council
- 2023-11-06 US (NY): New plot-labeling program supports plant breeders in Global South
- 2023-11-03 US (WI): Julie Dawson honored for crop breeding work for organic systems
- 2023-11-03 "A box filler with excellent disease resistance"
- 2023-10-31 The evolution of plant variety protection in the era of new breeding techniques
- 2023-10-27 Ghana gene bank becomes the 100th depositor to Svalbard Global Seed Vault
- 2023-10-24 Two new ToLCNDV-resistant squash varieties introduced
- 2023-10-24 Commissioner Stella Kyriakides endorses new genomic techniques and plant reproductive material