How are new seed varieties developed?
Developing new seed varieties requires about ten years of testing, improvements and innovation. In this interview, Lucie Kablan, agronomist and researcher in field crop management, details the scientific process behind Sollio Agriculture’s research farm.
Question: Can you summarize the major stages involved in developing new varieties?
Answer: The easiest way to explain it is by using the diagram below.
During the crossbreeding stage (1), we select a mom and dad. We place the male plant’s pollen on the female plant’s flower to obtain a seed.
We grow a plant from this seed, and that is when the multiplying stage (2) begins. We harvest the plant and use its seeds to grow many more, repeating the process to create third and fourth generations. This results in large amounts of plants, all produced from the same initial crossbreeding (the same parents). This yields a fixed seed, i.e., the plant and its children will have a common genetic code.
From there, we start an elimination process known as the selecting stage (3). Our goal is to choose the most high-performance varieties from the thousands of plants we have from the same family. To do so, we sow all of them and reproduce the best ones (around 20%). We sow that 20%, test it and select the top 20% again. We repeat the process until there are about 20 varieties remaining. Finally, from these, we select one or two seed varieties to market.
Q: That’s a lot of work! Are there other things you need to do before marketing?
A: Yes, that’s where I come in! Before marketing a new variety (5), we have to learn more about it. We conduct another round of field testing (4) to determine how to realize the seed’s full potential.
Q: What are you trying to learn exactly?
A: Well, that depends. I work with specialized advisors to identify what information is needed in the field. For example, we could determine which seeding and fertilization rate to use on the new varieties or assess if a particular crop management would maximize yields.
Q: What do you do with the information afterwards?
A: We share the results with agri-advisors who, in turn, share the information in the field (6). This allows farmers to improve their management.
Q: Do you test other products besides new seed varieties?
A: Tests are carried out on fertilizers, crop protection products and new technologies, among other things. We never market products that don’t work in the field—that is vital to us. We assess products so we can tell farmers: “You can trust our products. We’ve tested them and they’re suitable for your production conditions.” We want farmers to achieve the best possible yield through a sustainable agriculture approach.
Ask your agri-advisors about our latest developments!