Sakata Seed Corp. is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and the Japan-based company was ready for the milestone with 12 new varieties.
“It is unusual to have that many at once,” said Alecia Troy, senior marketing manager for Sakata Seed America, Morgan Hill, Calif. “It’s a big year for us. We knew our centennial was coming up, and we wanted to make sure we had a big Centennial Collection.”
The lineup includes Centennial broccoli, which the company describes as a “heavy-headed, small-beaded” variety that can be grown year-round in cool, coastal areas.
“What we’re trying to do is fill a specific slot or need,” Troy said. “It’s not one size fits all. We develop products for specific seasons, regions and uses.”
Troy said the new variety will produce excellent crowns.
“We’re known for broccoli,” she said. “It’s our bread and butter crop. We’re always working hard to stay ahead of the curve.”
Bringing so many new products to market takes a lot of testing.
“Growers don’t want to switch to a new variety without being sure,” Troy said. “It’s a big commitment for them. They need downstream customers to be satisfied.”
The company has been testing Grand Vantage cabbage for more than three years, Troy said.
“It’s been getting a lot of interest,” Troy said. “Growers can’t wait. It performs well in the field and with retailers. It tastes great. It had everything to fit into this collection.”
The blue-green variety has a round head, heavy weight, dense interior, a short core and is resistant to fusarium yellows race 1, a fungal disease, according to Sakata.
It also has excellent yield potential, which Troy said is one of the most important factors in determining which new varieties make it to market.
“Growers have to be able to make money, and to do that they need yield and disease resistance,” she said. “They want to produce more on less land.”
Another important factor is uniformity, Troy said. And Rally, the company’s newest vine-ripe tomato, has that, she said.
“It’s a big deal throughout the supply chain,” she said. “Growers want it to mature at the same time and have a uniform look and feel. They want a uniform size and uniform look for consumers. It displays better.”
Rally has “wide adaptability for the Southeastern U.S., particularly for main season through late spring production slots,” the company said on its website.
Troy said that although yield, uniformity and disease resistance are all important, a variety has to have more than that going for it.
“More and more it’s about taste,” she said. “People want a tomato that tastes like a tomato, but it still has to be able to store, ship and have shelf life.”
Rally, she said, offers great taste and quality in addition to disease resistance and uniformity.
What other features does a new variety need to make it to market?
Well, if it’s a pumpkin, it’s going to need a good handle.
“One of the most important things is a sturdy handle, so that when kids pick it up it doesn’t break off,” Troy said.
Jack Sprat is the company’s new pie-class pumpkin. The 3- to 3½-pound pumpkin has excellent yield potential, is tolerant to powdery mildew and has a beautiful orange color, Troy said.
And a good handle.
“It’s getting very good grower acceptance,” she said.
The company’s other new offerings include Vulture beet, Snowbowl cauliflower, Alaniz Gold melon, Touchdown bell pepper, Riverside spinach, Seaside spinach, Primavera squash and Peppermint Swiss chard.