A New Breed of Seed [The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho]By Steve Kadel, The Times-News, Twin Falls, IdahoMcClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Aug. 12--FILER -- It's harvest time at Seminis Vegetable Seeds Inc.
The workers -- many of them college and high school summer employees -- were in the field at 7 a.m. Thursday collecting green beans at the seed production and research firm.
"Us farm guys get up early," station manager Jim Gomm said with a grin, emphasizing the activity well before Twin Falls-bound motorists started their commute on Highway 30.
Although Seminis grows and sells seeds for commercial use by farmers throughout the world, most of the company's focus is on research. That includes garden beans such as peas and green beans along with dry beans such as pinto, navy and kidney beans, said company spokeswoman Kathleen Manning.
"The research done at the site is utilized worldwide," she said. "Once a crop's research is completed at Filer the results are sent worldwide to see how they adapt in other areas."
Gomm noted that some vegetable samples are sent to a Seminis testing facility in Wisconsin where produce is evaluated for color and taste. The goal is to produce more palette-pleasing vegetables as well as developing strains that are disease resistant.
"Research and development is intended to identify (seed) varieties to go to commercial use for the company," he said.
It takes from seven to 10 years to develop a new variety, Gomm said. One of the success stories is a green bean without the fibrous string, which makes it easier to process.
"Now the predominant trait on the market is stringless," he said.
Peas are another staple grown at the research station. Through what Gomm calls "classical breeding," the goal is the same as for beans -- a more disease-free product.
"The biggest benefit is that the grower can produce a good crop in areas where he might otherwise not be able to do so because of disease," he said.
The Magic Valley was chosen for the research operation because the dry climate helps grow disease-free vegetables. Low humidity is another factor in producing good seed crops.
"This valley is excellent for seed development," Gomm said.
Seminis is part of Monsanto's vegetable seed division, and the Filer acreage was formerly owned by Associated Seed Growers. About 200 acres are now under cultivation, including land Seminis leases off-site.
Spinach, lettuce, sweet corn, onions and carrots used to be researched in Filer, but those are now being studied in other locations owned by the company.
Seminis employs about 20 people full-time and hires another 20 or 25 for summer work. Gomm said it hasn't been difficult to find qualified employees lately, due mostly to the economic situation. Many of the college students who work the fields are studying some form of agriculture and are interested in agricultural careers, he said.
While Seminis isn't the only seed producer in the Magic Valley, Gomm is happy that others such as Archer Daniels Midland's Edible Bean Specialties are here.
"We're all competitors, but competition is good," he said.
(c)2012 The Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho)
Visit The Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho) at magicvalley.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services