How vegetable breeders are handling organics: an overview

According to the most recent data, organic farming covered almost 13.8 million hectares of agricultural land in the EU-27 in 2019 (8.5% of the total utilized agricultural area), an increase of 0.5% from 2018. The increase in organic area between 2012 and 2019 was 46%. The EU Green Deal and its Farm to Fork Strategy, aim that by 2030, 25% of agricultural land is for organic farming.

To find out how vegetable seed companies are dealing with this ambitious target, European Seed consulted with experts from several vegetable breeding companies. They sat down with Anne Williams, Global Head of Protected Culture for Bayer Vegetable Seeds, Heleen Bos, Specialist Marketing Organics at Rijk Zwaan, Bram Weijland, Organic program coordinator at Bejo Zaden, Paul Degreef, Head of Business Unit KWS Vegetables B.V., Marcel van Diemen, plant breeder at Vitalis Biologische Zaden BV, and Pauline Fargier-Puech, Group Marketing Manager at Gautier Semences.

Organic activities
By selecting the best-suited varieties for organic farming at the earliest stage possible from Bejo Zaden’s conventional breeding program, the company combines the broad basis of selection that their program offers with the specific requirements for their organic growers. “This is what we have named: ‘breeding for organic’ as an addition to the existing ‘organic breeding’ standards’,” says Weijland.

For more than 20 years, organic has been at the heart of the Research and Development programs of Gautier Semences, which, as a long-standing partner of farmers, supports the organic growing sector.

“We have made the choice, for more than 20 years, to bring our history and our know-how to the organic farmers. In 1998, we obtained ECOCERT certification for the entire seed production process, sorting, storage, and packaging,” says Fargier-Puech.

Through its conventional breeding work, Gautier offers varieties that contribute to the reduction of chemical use. All their varieties are evaluated in organic farms to select the most sustainable to this production system. In accordance with organic farming regulations, Gautier Semences varieties are non-GMO. 

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