Each year, new trends are emerging in fresh produce, and it’s important to keep up with those trends by meeting the needs of both growers and consumers. One of the ways to do that is through product development centers (PDCs). PDCs allow us to provide consumers with innovative products of the highest quality and flavor while supporting our growers with technology and practices that grow and sustain their operations. One major fresh trend we’re seeing is that consumers are demanding fresh food like never before. PDCs provide the opportunity to bring innovation to consumers through practices like seed trials, which create new and different variations of products. By bringing the grower and the consumer together, we are able to receive and provide valuable feedback, which only continues to challenge and improve the fresh world. Through that continuous trial and evaluation, consumers are receiving higher quality product with sustainable varieties. Our second, and newest, PDC recently opened in Tifton, GA, and primarily focuses on dry vegetables, such as mini sweet peppers and cucumbers. With 11 crops, 600+ varieties, and more than 637 plots, we are committed to investigating and searching for innovative varieties to provide consumers. Another trend we’re seeing is the demand for transparency and food that is safe to eat and responsibly harvested. It’s important for both growers and consumers to have sustainable, disease-resistant food. Working hand in hand with growers is a way to achieve this—and it’s how I spend most of my days. We work to educate growers about best practices in the following areas:
- Sustainable farming
- Crop rotations help maintain healthy, nutrient-rich soil, while aiding in disease prevention. We work closely with farmers to identify good rotation crops for their long term planting programs.
- Higher yield
- Seed and growing trials lead to new and unique product varieties, and may lead to higher yields.
- Pest control
- At our Davis PDC, we’ve continued to work to develop powdery mildew resistant (PMR) varieties of watermelon. Tolerance or resistance improves plant health and may lead to higher yields and higher quality fruit.
- Water and fertilizer conservation
- Irrigation management is a great way to use water more efficiently, and using plastic mulch helps retain water and minimize weed growth. Experimenting with fertilizer levels can help determine the optimal fertilizer to yield relationship, with a goal to reduce fertilizer use.